Theatrically Nasty Thoughts – Edition #1
To the right is Mr. Samuel Beckett — dubbed the Unofficial Patron Saint of Nasty Shadows. Beckett’s work is truly phenomenal and embodies everything Nasty Shadows aims for, so let’s start with a thought by this theatrical master.
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Perhaps one of the most famous passages from all of Becket’s work is this wonderfully concise capturing of the human condition:
Let me tell it again.
An Englishman, needing a pair of striped trousers in a hurry for the New Year festivities, goes to his tailor who takes his measurements.
“That’s the lot, come back in four days, I’ll have it ready.” Good. Four days later.
“So sorry, come back in a week, I’ve made a mess of the seat.” Good, that’s all right, a neat seat can be very ticklish. A week later.
“Frightfully sorry, come back in ten days, I’ve made a hash of the crotch.” Good, can’t be helped, a snug crotch is always a teaser. Ten days later.
“Dreadfully sorry, come back in a fortnight, I’ve made a balls of the fly.” Good, at a pinch, a smart fly is a stiff proposition.
(Pause. Normal voice.)
I never told it worse.
I tell this story worse and worse.
(Pause. Raconteur’s voice.)
Well, to make it short, the bluebells are blowing and he ballockses the buttonholes.
“God damn you to hell, Sir, no, it’s indecent, there are limits! In six days, do you hear me, six days, God made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of making me a pair of trousers in three months!”
(Tailor’s voice, scandalized.)
“But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look—
(disdainful gesture, disgustedly)
—at the world—
(loving gesture, proudly)
—at my TROUSERS!”
(Pause. He looks at Nell who has remained impassive, her eyes unseeing. He breaks into a high forced laugh, cuts it short, pokes his head towards Nell, launches his laugh again.)
— that passage is taken from the play Endgame, which Nasty Shadows produced in 2004. It is interesting that this nugget of wisdom is put forth from the play’s two minor characters while Hamm and Clov continue in their circularity of action. This play was a real treat for me as it marked the first and only time I’ve shared the stage with my theatrical mentor and Nasty co-founder, Robert Moore. I played ‘Clov’ to his ‘Hamm’ — I still remember the two of us giggling in the wings on opening night as we remained there when the play ended without doing a curtain call. The audience was slightly uncomfortable, but to bow at the end of that piece seemed insulting to the work and the experience we’d all shared.
Broke my toe on opening night as well when I slipped a moment on the step-ladder I had to repeatedly climb. Perhaps that’s why I got fuddled in the text and skipped Nell’s one and only entrance to the play (my wife Alicia’s one and only time on stage — never again, she says!).
One of my all-time favourite moments came during the dress rehearsal at RCS: At the end, when Clov returns to the stage with hat/coat/suitcase, I was planted far left from Hamm seated centre, and facing out delivered that final speech about having to leave. Tears rose in my eyes and my whole body was overcome with, well, with woe, I guess … I spent the remainder of the run (foolishly) chasing that feeling, hoping to hit it again … but alas … close, but not quite again …