Company review: Sublime theatre for an audience ready to imagine

Dublin Theatre Festival: Raymond Keane soars in this Samuel Beckett dramatisation


Project Upstairs
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Imagine! A seductive invitation, a quiet command to an audience and we comply. We take a door into the dark, following the Voice who tells of He who lies on his back in the dark alone.

In dramatising Samuel Beckett's novella Company, which meditates and ruminates on solitariness and aloneness, on memory or figments of imagination, on darkness and light, the secret is to uncover its beating visual and dramatic heart. Sarah Jane Scaife's production delicately and confidently creates a sublime theatre experience for an audience ready to imagine.

Scaife invests all in Raymond Keane’s finely nuanced body and voice. Here the actor takes on the role of the Voice and the Hearer of the text, the ruminating and remembering, listening and imagining. The Hearer wonders if he is alone. Craving company. A shaft of light introduces the prone sculptured skeletal marionette as Keane turns puppet master, gently manipulating the hinged figure becoming a coconspirator in these re-enacted memories; to show a child’s wondrous gazing at the sky, an older bowed head, eyes fixed below. These minute shifts, imbued with the emotion of remembering and punctuated with Keane’s voice, in real and recorded time, stir our imaginations too.

There is much of Beckett, writer and man, in Company, which was published in 1980, a little less than 10 years before his death; his love for words – "sole sound in the silence of your footfalls" – playing and sounding them as they emerge and dissolve like raindrops in Kilian Water's video projection.


There is also the familiar obsessive quantifying of time passing; the anatomical measurings, the questioning of certainties or the gleeful relishing of ambiguity. Keane the performer excels here, his body transparently mirroring precise and minute computations of movement, the controlled grace of his back lowering and rising, prone or supine, his tone catching the humour of the tongue-twisting verbal contortions.

But it is in the illumination with gesture, body and voice of a few memories drawn from Beckett’s life that the text, movement and subtlety of Stephen Dodd’s lighting soar. We are awed by the power of those elemental fragile moments of childhood; the felt rejection as a clasped hand is disengaged abruptly, the warm glow of a father and son dangling legs and chuckling in turn on a sunlit sill, and then Keane as the older figure, boots buried in the snowy ground, making his routine beeline across the expanse of light. This is company.

Runs until Sunday, October 7th