The Student
Review
Literature Lockdown Challenge: “It Must Be Nearly Finished!” Are We Living In A Beckett Play?
by Ellen Willott, 12/05/20

“Yesterday! What does that mean? Yesterday!”–”That means that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day.”

Endgame is a play about passing time. Unlike its prequel, Waiting For Godot, there is no person or event to wait for, except it all ending at some point. The characters talk at length about their death, concluding that it would be difficult to know if Clov had died in the other room because he stinks already. Hamm tells Clov to check on his mother: “Go and see is she dead.” (Clov goes to bins, raises the lid of Nell’s, stoops, looks into it. Pause.) Clov: “Looks like it.”

Nothing happens, and time warps. The clock seems absurd, with nothing to count down to. It is the only thing that adorns the walls. Hamm asks Clov to put him back to bed five minutes after waking up. Time is punctuated by Hamm asking whether it is time for his painkiller (“no!”) or Clov storming out, at which Hamm says to himself: “we’re getting on”.

The play is set in one room. Hamm and Clov are fascinated with the outside but, until the end, it is forbidden to explore it.Outside of here it’s death!” They watch the horizon for hope approaching in an unknown form. Hamm, blind and unable to stand, orders Clov to tell him what he sees out the window, and his answer is simply: “grey”. Endgame indulges in the madness of waiting and of being trapped. It invokes a kind of delirium; the characters are completely and utterly fed up with each other, but they keep coming back and getting drawn into circular, often nonsensical dialogue before Clov, unable to sit, limps out again to kill a rat or perform other such domestic duties.

Seven weeks into self-isolating on my own, Hamm, Clov, and their barren, apocalyptic world are disturbingly relatable. Samuel Beckett wrote the play in 1957, and true to its absurdist, post-modernist form, he wrote in such a way as to alienate the spectator, and make them self-conscious of their spectating. But as Hamm exclaims how they could “make a raft and the currents will carry us away, far away, to other… mammals”, I am drawn inside their fish-bowl.

Going out to Sainsbury’s, or anywhere outside for that matter, feels like embarking on a dangerous, if not fairly mundane, mission. It requires thought where it didn’t before. I walk round the one way system three times having forgotten to get my things in the right order. One step the wrong way to pick up some couscous has me questioning my morals. Alone in my flat, I am slowly transforming into a bed-dwelling gremlin who walks around with no trousers. I search for any kind of entertainment and forget the days of the week. From my window, I match the people waiting outside Sainsbury’s to their partners shopping inside. Beanie goes with beardie, cargo pants with sports leggings. I am at once aware of the tiny, shrunken world that is my flat, and of the world as it faces the same issue. The in-between that we normally live in has gone. Scale has gone haywire.

So I channel Hamm and Clov as I ask myself if I can have my biscuit (no, it isn’t time), look out the window, and wish my seeds to germinate (“did you scratch round them to see if they had sprouted?” “They’ll never sprout!”). There is an odd kind of companionship that I have to find in myself. I laugh out loud at TV shows and talk sternly to myself if I haven’t been on a walk that day. And sometimes I forget that life hasn’t always been like this. Maybe there is something to be said for embracing the madness.

Image: boxchain via flickr