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Eh Joe, a CurtainUp London review CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp London London Review
Eh Joe



Yes, great love God knows why . . . Even me . . . But I found a better . . . As I hope you heard . . . Preferable in all respects . . . Kinder . . . Stronger . . . More intelligent . . . Better looking . . . Cleaner . . . Truthful . . . Faithful . . . Sane . . . Yes . . . I did all right.
---- Voice
Eh Joe
Michael Gambon as Joe
(Photo: Anthony Woods)
Samuel Beckett's centenary has brought this short piece from the Abbey Theatre Dublin to London's West End for a few weeks to plug the gap at the Duke of York's between Embers closing and Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll opening. Now what would induce London audiences to pay up to 20 to see 30 minutes of theatre? Who else but the great Sir Michael Gambon in a play written by the man who did most to change the face of twentieth century drama with the enigmatic and innovative Waiting for Godot.

Unlike the production that my colleague Les Gutman saw in New York (NY production review), this Irish production of Eh Joe remains true to Beckett's original although of course that was written for television. Canadian film maker Atom Egoyan directs. The problem has been in staging this piece to keep the intensity and attention it would have on camera. This is how Egoyan cleverly interprets it for stage using a camera for live projection.

The opening scene sees the great Gambon closing doors, checking windows and drawing curtains ready for the night. He stretches out those long fingered hands and in slow motion reaches up to adjust the drapes. Just as we feel sure no-one or nothing can penetrate his world which he has checked in the slowest of slow motion, a camera intrudes to project a close up of Gambon's face as he sits on the single cast iron framed bed. The projected face is ten times the size of the real one and almost fills the stage backdrop. We see the man in profile, the face full frontal.

Then the voice of a middle aged woman (Penelope Wilton) accuses. It is an unpleasant whining voice which uses the prodding, poking, penetrating Eh Joe? as an accusation, as a conjunction for her stream of complaining thoughts, repeated again and again. She lists his crimes against women. We can't be sure whether she is inside his mind or not. Gambon is motionless except for his eyes which seem to register fear and memory, maybe regret and shame if what the voice says is true. He says nothing. Nothing in his own defence, just that lined lugubrious expression looking hurt.

It works quite well but I would have preferred the voice not to have been recorded but live. It is an esoteric, mysterious dramatic event but interesting.

EH JOE
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Atom Egoyan

Starring: Michael Gambon
With: the voice of Penelope Wilton
Design: Eileen Diss
Lighting: Jim McConnell
Running time: Thirty minutes with no interval
Box Office: 0870 890 1101
Booking at the Duke of York's to 15th July 2006
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 28th June performance at the Duke of York's, St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square)
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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