This is the first time I've seen anything by the legendary theatre director Peter Brook, as his production of Fragments returns to the Young Vic. A collection of five short plays by Samuel Beckett, lasting about an hour in total and performed by three actors, it's an interesting evening to say the least. Performed on a sparse stage, it begins with perhaps the weakest of the five, Rough for Theatre I. I say the weakest because it's in Beckett's wordier style, and Marcello Magni and Khalifa Natour's accents, while not impenetrable, are strong enough that it takes a while sometimes for their last line to sink in, which makes it awkward to appreciate the oddities of Beckett's dialogue. Their later appearances rely more on physical comedy, which they're both excellent at. Unsurprisingly Act Without Words II plays to these strengths and is very funny.
After each of these two-handers we have a monologue from the amazing Kathryn Hunter, one of those tiny actresses with a frail-seeming presence that draws you in. Rockaby is a kind of liguistic exercise, Hunter's speech consisting of a handful of words and phrases repeated over and over in different combinations and emphases. As the speech goes on more words are gradually introduced into the sequence, allowing her to form an expressionistic verbal picture of a woman dying in her rocking-chair by a window. Her second speech is the very short Neither before all three actors appear as gossiping old women in Come and Go. Hunter's small role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (she played Mrs Figg) suggested she was able to bring comedy out of the slightest facial expression, but here she really is genius, getting huge laughs from her reactions. A bit of a different night at the theatre, deserving this revival.
Fragments by Samuel Beckett is booking until the 13th of September at the Young Vic.