THE BECKETT TRILOGY Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh ****
THERE'S a bold, beautiful idea behind the Gare St Lazare company of Ireland's Beckett Trilogy. In an evening lasting almost three and a half hours, it takes Samuel Beckett's great trilogy of novels written in Paris in the late 1940s and transforms them into a three-part solo performance, delivered with a fierce, fragile courage by Conor Lovett, and directed by his partner, Judy Hegarty Lovett.
Like the trilogy itself, the show begins with the relatively legible narrative of the first novel, Molloy, about a homeless travelling man on the streets of an Irish town, and his strange, compulsive relationship with his blind and bedbound old mother. Then there's the increasingly fragmented, pause-ridden and frightening landscape of Malone Dies; and finally, there's the author's tormented self-examination in The Unnamable, performed wearing a Beckett-style suit, and standing in a single, penetrating shaft of light.
It would be wonderful to be able to say that the trilogy amounts to a complete theatrical triumph. But in truth only the first monologue, Molloy, makes really effective theatre. In the second and third, Lovett remains too trapped in the pinched body-language of a failed Irishman of the mid-20th century to find that strange, dry, infinitely human yet authoritative voice that makes Beckett's deconstruction of reality both compelling and dramatic.
For anyone who relishes Beckett's astonishing command of language in all its fragments, though, this show remains a rare experience; rich, thought-provoking and brave, if not always completely gripping.