Tag Archives: Endgame

Hugo Weaving Wins Helpmann Award For STC Endgame; The Dressmaker To Premiere at TIFF, Art of Music Photos

Though Hugo Weaving has been on an extended, well-earned break since STC’s Waiting For Godot wrapped up its London run, his projects– past and future– continue to make the news. Here’s a rundown of all that’s happened since  my last update.

2015 Helpmann Awards


Hugo Weaving with Tom Budge in STC’s production of Endgame earlier ths year. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

After years of snubs (sometimes of not even being nominated) the Helpmann Awards, given annually for Australian stage productions including theatre, dance, concert and opera, finally did the right thing, awarding Hugo Weaving Best Actor in A Play for his performance as Hamm in STC’s production of Endgame earlier this year. Hugo did not attend the July 27 ceremony, so his Endgame director and friend Andrew Upton claimed the award on his behalf. Hugo frequently avoids awards shows and the Helpmanns rarely recognized his work, so I wasn’t surprised he had other places to be, though it would have been nice to hear Hugo’s thoughts on the honor or have some new pics… as fans we’re more than used to him having other priorities than celebrity-driven red carpet galas. 😉 In addition to Upton, Cate Blanchett and Hugo’s former collaborators Kip Williams (Macbeth) and Pamela Rabe (God of Carnage, Les Liaisons Dangereuses) were on hand. You can view red carpet photos of the event at The Guardian and The Daily Mail; news reports covering the Helpmanns are available at Stage Whispers, The Sydney Morning Herald,The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The AustralianThe AU Review, Sydneyland, ABC.net and Contact Music.     Most of these just list Hugo’s name and honor without citing a reason for his absence.  A few include Lisa Tomasetti’s Endgame performance photos or random press photos from earlier events.


via Helpmann Awards twitter feed

You can read Andrew Upton’s comments explaining why arts funding, particularly of small-to-medium sized theatres, is essential at the Herald Sun. As Upton says, “That’s where the next Hugo Weaving and Samuel Beckett come from”

Speaking of Beckett, don’t forget that BBC2’s Artsnight will air a special Beckett themed episode on July 31 at 11pm (GMT) in which host Richard Wilson will interview Hugo Weaving and Lisa Dwan about their participation in The Barbican’s Beckett Festival this summer. The program will then go up on the BBC’s website for streaming. More details at The Telegraph. Ideally this should include footage from the Barbican production of STC’s Waiting for Godot, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The Dressmaker Slated For TIFF World Premiere Gala

Yet another of Hugo’s projects will hve its global premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The Dressmaker, costarring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Sarah Snook, will be showcased in a gala premiere this September. (The festival begins 10 September, specific screening times TBD.) The film follows Hugo’s earlier projects Little Fish (2005), Cloud Atlas (2012) and Mystery Road (2013) at TIFF; Hugo attended the first two. He’s likely to appear this year too unless a project comes up which prevents him from doing so. (So far he has announced no new film or stage projects and has previously stated he’ll be taking an extended break from theatre to explore possible independent film projects.)

Most entertainment news sites simply list the film’s synopsis and the fact it will be featured in its own gala presentation. You’ll want to keep an eye on TIFF’s page for the film as more details become available in weeks to come.  More at ComingSoon.net, Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post and The Guardian, among many others.

More Photos of Hugo Weaving at Art Of Music Live 2015

Art of Music’s Facebook page has shared some additional new photos of Hugo Weaving alongside Simon Baker and Jenny Morris at the July 16 charity fundraiser, which has been Hugo’s only public appearance this summer. All were taken by Trini Cromie Photography.


Hugo walks the red carpet at The Art of Music Live, 16 July 2015. Photo (plus three others) Trini Cromie/Art of Music Facebook


L to R: Jenny Morris, Simo Baker, Hugo Weaving onstage at Art of Music 2015

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Finally, some American Hugo fans will finally have a chance to see Healing on the big screen as the film will be featured in a special Australians In Film screenings in New York (Aug 14) and Los Angeles (Aug 7) next month. More details and info on how to RSVP for tickets at Australians in Film’s website. I’m desperately trying to arrange attending the NYC event after feeling burned I missed out on Strangerland’s pathetically minuscule US cinematic release. (Still hoping for second-run or college screens to help me out on that issue…)

Speaking of Strangerland, I am still trying to fit in a second screening of the film before composing a review. Again, a proper theatrical viewing would be optimal, but US distributors seem intent on disappointing me time after time in that regard. We’ll have to see if The Dressmaker finally breaks that pattern, but I’m sick to death of arthouse screens being wasted on mid-budget American films that are being shunted there so superheroes and CG dinosaurs can hog ALL the screens at mall cineplexes.  I still highly recommend the film, and highly recommend that fans NOT waste any time reading snotty negative reviews or Twitter comments about the film, as most seem to have been written by juveniles with short attention spans.

Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen recently completed filming Goldstone, the sequel/offshoot to Mystery Road, in June. (Hugo’s character Johnno won’t be featured because… well, see the first film). But the new film co-stars Jacki Weaver, David Gulpilil and David Wenham, and should provide riveting viewing in its own right. You can see production photos and news reports at the film’s Facebook page.

Hugo Weaving Arrives In London For STC’s Waiting For Godot On Tour: Strangerland at SFF

Once again I have to start things off with an apology: my life has been incredibly complicated and busy over the past month. I have posted updates in a more timely manner via my Twitter account, as that seems to be the preferred forum of most of my readers… but I’m still a blogger at heart, so I feel bad when I can’t check in here at least once a week or so. Hugo was actually taking a post-Endgame break for a few weeks (or headed straight into rehearsals for the Godot revival) so there hadn’t been an onslaught of new Hugo Weaving news until this past week.

Godot In London

Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins have arrived in London for the revival of Sydney Theatre Company’s acclaimed production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at The Barbican. Performances begin June 4 (tickets are still available here… I know a lot of you are already going. 😉 Unfortunately it’s financially and logistically impossible for me to cross the pond this time, much as I’d love to.)

We have our first new look at the full cast in costume thanks to this photo from STC Company Manager Colm O’Callaghan, who posted it to this Twitter & instagram feed earlier today:


“Our Beckett groupies at the #Barbican #STC #stcontour #LisaDwan #StillWaitingForGodot” Colm O’Callaghan, via Twitter/Instagram
L to R: Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins, Philip Quast, Lisa Dwan and Hugo Weaving

A week ago, Australian Actors Equity shared a less formal rehearsal photo of the cast, this one in support of the #SaveOurStories cause, which seeks to prevent legislation which could undermine the Australian film industry by removing incentives/rules which until now have required foreign productions filming in Australia to hire local talent. It’s a natural fit for Hugo, who has long championed and supported the local industry, preferred Australian independent film roles and only agreed to participate in the Matrix sequels if they were primarily filmed in Sydney.  You can read more about #SaveOurStories on their Facebook page and here.


“The cast of STC’s Waiting for Godot – Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast, Luke Mullins and Richard Roxburgh – join the fight to #saveourstories” Australian Equity via Twitter/Facebook

My favorite new Godot-linked item is this joint interview of Hugo Weaving and his longtime friend, artist Nicholas Harding, whose rehearsal drawings of Hugo’s recent STC productions are always a highlight of STC’s programmes and promotions. You can read the online version at The Independent and I’ll embed the print version (from The New Review) below; for once I’m happy to report both versions are identical, with The Independent sharing a decent-sized embed of Graham Jepson’s brilliant portrait of the two.


Minor quibble: Hugo and Katrina have been together since 1984, which is over 30 years, not 20. 😉 Would also welcome a cooking or food tourism web series/vlog from these two ever they decide to take an extended break from their day jobs 😉


Obviously taken while Hugo was still in Sydney, at STC’s Wharf Theatre complex. Photo by Graham Jepson

I hope to have updates, reviews and any new photos to share soon. STC’s news blog has a compilation of many of the recent social media postings and other articles about Godot in London.

For now, enjoy these great fan photos:


“Always nice to see an Elvin king in Fortune Park #hugoweaving” Giddy up Coffee via Instagram
Quite relieved Hugo’s given up on trying to give up coffee. 😉


“The boys have appeared on the tube… must mean #STCGodot is getting closer! @BarbicanCentre #ResumeTheStruggle” Lauren Dodds via Twitter

Strangerland at Sydney Film Festival

Though Hugo Weaving’s London commitments make it impossible for him to appear at Strangerland’s Sydney Film Fest premiere on 5 June, the film is already receiving much more favorable notices than the jaundiced hipster crowd at Sundance managed. Here are a few excerpts, with the usual recommendations that you follow the links back to the sites of origin and read the full text.

Matthew Lowe, The Reel Word: “Strangerland is a haunting film filled with spectral imagery, informed in equal parts peripherally by ancient Aboriginal knowledge, by Australian film, and by not too distant cultural epochs such as the Lindy Chamberlain saga. The disappearance of two children here is less the object itself than a catalyst to examine the psychological decay that simmers just below the surface of a small town’s inhabitants, and how that decay –implicitly connected to the land- is also implicitly responsible for the disappearance.

Something is going on, and none of these characters want to tell you what it is. Strangerland is built on suggestions and implications that are only confronted when the issues are forced, and even then, just barely. Not inappropriately, it has the feel of a sinister reverie, and its questions are more powerful for not having unequivocal answers.

That the film is committed to its own ambiguity is what saves certain scenes –notably, episodes of Catherine’s breakdown- from seeming as arbitrary as they might. It is tempting to say it veers on weird for weirds sake, eschewing logic; but the tone is at least consistent in its progression, in its gradual erosion of psyches.

Likewise, those scenes are the only ones where Kidman verges on overacting; but mostly her performance is welcomingly understated. Playing an Australian disarms her of much the conceit she necessarily adopts playing foreign roles: it leaves her more vulnerable. She is better for it, if occasionally histrionic, but well cast, as are Fiennes and Weaving and the rest…. 8/10”

***

Jason King, Salty Popcorn: “The film is spectacular, hands down I do believe this will be my favourite Australian movie of 2015 and comes across as this year’s THE ROVER. It is easily one of Kidman’s best performances from an incredible career and she eats the screen in this one. Also seeing her and Weaving act together is like seeing Blanchett and Rush, it is a perfect fit and two actors who not only know each other so well but are so comfortable acting together it is almost natural…

As I said earlier Kidman’s performance is just sublime, she gets bloody raw in this movie and goes for it, she appears more comfortable away form the Hollywood studios. Weaving is always amazing, I just love the guy, and his small town cop, thoroughly enjoyable…

The film captures small town Australian desert/ country life perfectly, the dust storm was a bonus and the isolation was uncomfortable. Farrant’s direction was a triumph and P.J. Dillon’s cinematography is a marvel that is matched by the fine wine of Keefus Ciancia’s music that smothers the movie in long drawn out tension oozing in melancholy and desperation.”

***

There’s also an interesting new Kim Farrant interview at The Brag, which notes that at a recent Australian media screening of the film, “as the credits rolled, not just one but two other journalists were reduced to tears by this superb, distressing debut.” Farrant diplomatically discusses the festival receptions to her film thusfar, and her artistic goals in making it.

Strangerland screens on June 5 at SFF with three additional showings (including one with a post-screening Q&A with director Kim Farrant) on the 6th. The film will then tour Australia, mainly via the Palace Cinemas chain, with many websites offering free ticket competitions. (Check my Twitter feed for the latest… or just google Win Strangerland Passes. 😉

Unfortunately, Strangerland’s US distributor doesn’t appear to have anything so inventive scheduled; they’ve already announced an 18 August DVD release (!) following what looks increasingly like a straight-to-VOD launch on 10 July (IMDb shows a “limited” release, so there’s some slight hope for a few arthouses to book the film.) I’d love to be wrong and will share any UIS cinema dates that are announced, but so far I’ve seen nothing. Alchemy doesn’t even list the film on their website, though they’ve posted links to the trailer on Twitter a couple of times. I’m never surprised that US distributors treat Australian films (most foreign films, really) this shabbily, but I’m always disappointed nonetheless.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Though Hugo Weaving is only mentioned in passing, there’s a great new promotional article about The Dressmaker (featuring and interview with producer Sue Maslin and a new photo of Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Sarah Snook) at The Screen Blog.  Maslin also discussed actress Sarah Snook’s role, and the film’s all-important costume designs with news.com.au .

Archive Updates

I’ve added a lot of new print material scans to my Hugo Weaving Flickr Archive in the pat week, including the theatre programme for STC’s Endgame (and some promo brochures) a 1994 Priscilla press kit. Just click on the links to view the first item in each set, then use arrow keys to navigate, and click on the image to see the full-sized version.


Hugo Weaving as Hamm in STC’s Endgame (rehearsals) Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Strangerland Trailer Debuts, Endgame’s Final Week, RIP Andrew Lesnie

Apologies for not updating sooner; my schedule has been chaotic for a few weeks now. Here are the major Hugo Weaving News Updates from the pasty couple of weeks. (As always, I update in a more timely manner on my Twitter account, but it’s been hard to grab a chunk of time long enough for the context and nuance that composing a Hugonuts update requires… I still consider this format preferable to the more abbreviated, trendy social networking sites, but Twitter at least allows me to post the raw materials of future entries as they appear.)

But enough delaying…

Strangerland: Official Trailer and Festival Screenings

Strangerland finally has an official trailer, via its American distributor Alchemy. (There was an unofficial, subtler teaser online several months ago, but it was quickly pulled from circulation, apparently considered an unofficial leak. For the record, I liked it as much as the new one, and it gave away less of the film’s plot.) The new trailer is longer and more intense, though Hugo has about the same amount of screentime. There are a few too many spoliers for my taste, but that’s generally true of the format. At least in this case the film’s ambiguous nature prevents the sort of over-sharing that plagues trailers for more conventional thrillers. All three lead actors look to be in solid form. Here’s the trailer plus the officxial poster (which is excellent) a few of my screencaps of Hugo’s scenes.


Alchemy via YouTube

The official film poster


(Above four images) My screencaps from the official trailer

Strangerland is released on 10 July in the US and 11 June in Australia, with the rest of its global distribution TBD. The US marketing hints strongly at a VOD-centric launch plus “select” cinematic screenings (likely a limited arthouse release.) The Australian release strategy will probably be similar, though the film is being treated with more class there, in a series of Sydney Film Festival Presents -themed screenings at the Palace Cinemas chain. (More about that in Inside Film). You can read the intel on the US release at Deadline, IndieWire, I’mWithGeek, The Film Stage and IMDb… all have very similar reports including the synopsis and trailer.

Prior to its international wide release, Strangerland will have screenings at the Sydney Film Festival— its Australian premiere 5 June and three additional screenings 6 June. Unfortunately, Hugo’s London stage role in STC’s Waiting For Godot (alongside Richard Roxburgh) will probably prevent Hugo from attending the film’s Sydney premiere… which is probably fine with him, though he has a longstanding love for the SFF apart from red-carpet duties. 😉 The film will also be showcased at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 17 and June 2. Tickets are still available for both festivals (follow the links above) but the SFF premiere is selling fast.

STC Endgame

Sydney Theatre Co’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame completed its final week of performances on Saturday; positive notices kept appearing til the end. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single negative review for the entire run of the production, which may be a first. Here are review excerpts posted since my prior entry, along with some great fans photos.

Fiona Prior, Henry Thornton: “To experience Andrew Upton and Hugo Weaving’s vision of Endgame as an audience member goes way beyond empathy and imagination into a real-time experiential connection. I frequently felt I was suffering as much from the onstage angst as were the performers who were waiting for the end –  and, like the performers it was only their repetitive dialogue about futility that kept me there for its wickedly funny insights…

Hugo Weaving owns the role of the tyrannical Hamm whose heart is not really into his dictatorial role any more but, confined to his chair, sees little alternative;  Tom Budge as the long-suffering Clov is an adept physical clown and the most down-trodden and sweetest of  victims. Add dust-covered and ashen Nell (Sarah Peirse)  and Nago (Bruce Spence) who live – if that is an appropriate word for their existence –  in old metal barrels on stage and  you have the whole extended family. Nell and Nago exhibit a loving connection in the play through the sharing of a biscuit and of memory. This glimmer of love, however, is treated as routinely as the exchanges of Hamm and Clov and this handling makes it all the more tragic..

I don’t adhere to the existential vision embedded in Endgame but I’m astonished that it can be delivered with such compelling humour. It is also a timely reminder to live creatively and not be a slave to what has come before. ”


Photo: Sharon Johal via Instagram

Frank Barnes, Education/NSWTF: “Along with the full house I sat mesmerised by this production, marvelling at Weaving’s mastery as he uses only his voice and arms, the powerful clowning performance of Tom Budge who has not acted on stage for 10 years, and the rarely-seen Bruce Spence and the extraordinary Sarah Peirse whose appearance is way too brief… Somehow there is always lots of humour to be found in these bleak scenarios of Beckett’s worlds…

The production is engrossing. Let’s hope that Upton, who is leaving for the US with his family, comes back occasionally to team up with Weaving again.”

Tanydd Jacquet, cheekytaster: “From the moment Hugo Weaving is unveiled onstage, you could hear a pin drop at the Roslyn Packer Theatre..

As the endless drops drip from the stage wall like the agonising infinity of seconds passing through in their world, the audience cannot help but to respond to their helplessness with laughter…

The greatest conflict in the play is the one you find yourself in when you leave the theatre. Both quizzical and inspired – you resolve to leave the room you have been so comfortable in, and take a chance on exploring what could be outside…

Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Endgame is a dark comedy that leaves it’s audience talking more than what happens onstage.”


Photo: aabbeymensforth via Instagram

theatrematters.com.au: “Despite the play being a little challenging to follow, the performances were, unsurprisingly, outstanding. Hugo Weaving was captivating as the tyrannical, unforgiving Hamm. At first I was concerned about not being able to see his eyes, hidden behind clouded glasses. How would I connect with him? But he was so beautifully expressive with his languorous hands (echoes of Gambon) and utilised the entirety of his vocal range to such a great effect that I needn’t have worried. Weaving is an enviably clever actor, and his use of language is utterly inspiring. His voice is like chocolate, and the way he effortlessly squeezes meaning out of each syllable, whether it be from modern or classic text, is a gift. Bugde made the perfect companion, making great comedic and physical choices, and letting Clov’s strength shine through just enough to give us hope for him in the end. Both actors were playing within the confines of the script, and found comedy in very difficult and unexpected places…

Nick Schlieper’s set and lighting design was delightfully bleak and foreboding, and provided the perfect basement home for the unlikely family, doomed to be forever alone until something breaks the monotony – death or departure.”


Photo: bncarynlds via Instagram

The Buzz From Sydney: “At the risk of sounding effusive, a production like the Andrew Upton directed Endgame is the reason why people go to the theatre: spellbinding performances and meticulous direction has made Endgame one of the theatre events of the year, which may sound premature, but trust me, is not…

Tom Budge delivered a virtuoso performance as Clov: he executes his duties in exacting , yet forgetful fashion, with intense concentration on space, as he moves Hamm around the stage. Hugo Weaving as Hamm was absolutely brilliant. His monologues create a landscape that is rich in simple drama, while his unseeing eyes held the audience in their grip. Hamm is after all, trying to stave off the end with a few last minute manipulations that are pointless but for him necessary…

Andrew Upton presents Endgame as a more sophisticated companion piece to Waiting For Godot, and fans of Beckett who are after a detailed and faithful rendering will not be disappointed by this production.”


Photo: millsy_k via Instagram

Alex Rieneck, AE36: “Suffice to say the characters are “Hamm” (Hugo Weaving) who spends the play ensconced in a comfortable armchair (which may be seen as a throne) (or not) and who orders everyone  about. He describes himself as senile, so he may be seen as a king. His especial servant is “Clov” (Tom Budge) who runs hither and yon about the stage at every beck and call and being far more mobile than the rest of the cast, is responsible for the physical comedy. Its a big job, Mr Budge is on the move for the entire play scuttling from one side of the stage to the other. His main prop is a twenty foot ladder and I lost track of the number of times that he climbed it, all the way to the top; after carrying it across the stage from one side to the other. No housepainter works so hard; I pitied him and wondered that at the end of the play he seemed to still be word perfect, even as he glistened with sweat. Actors delight me…

Hamm is a less likeable character; he sprawls backwards in his chair bossing Clov, bellowing when he thinks it will achieve his purpose; bribing Nagg with sugar plums when shouting fails. In short Hamm is every inch a king, but not the phantasy monarch of king William and Kate – he is more the nasty reality of King Rupert (Murdoch) himself the unvarnished face of power itself…

The  performances (particularly Hugo Weaving’s as Hamm and Tom Budge as Clov) are flawless, and Bruce Spence beaming up at the world out of a garbage can is not something I will soon forget – nor will I try to.  Sarah Perse does rather better than can be expected with the little that is available to the character of Nell.”


Fan video(!) by Sharon Johal/Instagram

And here are a couple of treats from STC: a behind the scenes look at the production’s teaser trailer, and a neat animated promo for the souvenir programme. (Yes, I have a copy, and yes, there will be scans when I have more time.) 😉


STC via YouTube

Hugo will have a brief respite from Samuel Beckett before traveling with STC’s production of Waiting For Godot to London’s Barbican in June. Stage Whipers has a preview.

RIP Andrew Lesnie, Cinematographer

Many of us were shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Andrew Lesnie, who won an Oscar for his cinematography for Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings and lent his considerable skills to several other notable Hugo Weaving films and TV projects, including The Hobbit Trilogy, Babe and its sequel, Bodyline, Melba and Healing. Lesnie also worked on King Kong and The Lovely Bones for Jackson, the recent Planet of the Apes reboot ; his final film was The Water Diviner starring Russell Crowe. Here is director Craig Monahan’s tribute to his collaborator and friend, via Healing’s Facebook page:


Healing director Craig Monahan, with Andrew Lesnie (2013)

“I am devastated at the loss of my friend of 35 years. I first met Andrew at film school : he was finishing and I was starting.

Our initial connection believe it or not was our love of Groucho Marx. I can still see him walking around saying ‘I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas I’ll never know.’

There was no-one like Andrew. He was very intelligent, very funny and full of energy. As a cinematographer he was brilliant…”Lighting schmiting”, he would say. ‘What’s it about? What is this scene about? Everything came from that.

Much love to Marcie and to his boys Sam,Jack and Alex. R.I.P. my friend” – Craig


Lesnie (center) with his wife Marcie on the set of Healing (2013)  Photos: Healing Facebook


Hugo Weaving and Lesnie during the filming of Healing (2013)

You can read tributes and more about Lesnie’s career at Variety, The Guardian, The New York Times, TheOneRing.net and (of course) Peter Jackson’s Facebook page, which includes an extended tribute and photos from the sets of their many collaborations.

“Dearest Andrew, you never sought nor wanted praise – you never needed to hear how good you were, you only ever cared about doing great work and respecting the work of others. But on behalf of all those who were lucky enough to collaborate with you, love you and in turn, respect your mastery of story, of light and of cinema magic – you are one of the great cinematographers of our time.” — Peter Jackson, via Facebook

andrew-lesnie-obituary-lord-rings-hobbit
With Ian McKellen on The Hobbit set  (Photo: Screen Rant)

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Ivan Sen and his Mystery Road leading man Aaron Pedersen are filming the much-anticipated sequel/follow-up to their 2013 masterpiece. Alas, for obvious resons (to anyone who’s seen Mystery Road) Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten won’t be able to participate this time around. The new film, entitled Goldstone, sees Pedersen’s Jay Swan investigating a new case in another town; though none of the Mystery Road supporting cast is on hand, the new film looks unmissable with the additions of Jacki Weaver, David Gulpilil and David Wenham to the cast. You can follow the film via the Mystery Road Facebook page (now officially named for BOTH films), and read more at Inside Film, Variety, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and SBS.  Filming is now underway in the Winton, QLD area.

STC Endgame: A Night With The Actors Transcript & New Photos; Performance Photos & Reviews

Once again, our Sydney Correspondent Yvette has some through, providing notes for this complete transcript of the 13 April Night With The Actors event. Actors Hugo Weaving, Bruce Spence, Tom Budge and Sarah Peirse sat for a Q & A session following that evening’s performance of Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Endgame. Yvette and some other lucky audience members in attendance took some great photos of the event, which I’ll also embed. While I’ve done my best to ensure accuracy, please bear in mind that this is my transcript of another person’s notes, so transcribing errors along the way are always possible.  If you were at this event and have any corrections to offer, do let us know. As always, my undying thanks to Yvette for her kindness in letting those of us not able to make it to Sydney (or to that specific performance) experience it vicariously.


Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton     Photo: Yvette/@LyridsMC via Instagram

[Note: Andrew Upton’s introduction and initial remarks weren’t copied and are thus abbreviated, as are some audience questions. Other remarks are edited for clarity and because, in some instances, they weren’t heard properly. All such alterations are clearly noted. Again, apologies. 😉  ]

Andrew Upton: We tried to be true to the text… Inside the play, there’s supposed to be a really precise sense of space and time. So that was the process we used on Waiting for Godot. And then in talking to Hugo [about the current season],  we decided we’d like to revisit  the “Beckett Experience” . And it really is quite a distinct experience. The language is so strong, the imagery so rich, and the emotional side is so deep and rewarding. I know  it appears quite bleak from the outside or as you glance off it as a reader or as an audience, but [from a creative standpoint] it’s incredibly generous. Incredibly generous language, and constructions and scenarios. So when you’re talking about having what we’ve tried to say in it, which is, just follow the directions. They are illuminating and liberating. They’re very, very scripted on the surface, and yet once you get inside them, there’s 150 emotions being unpent. And with that liberation…Once you face all of it, there’s a lot of philosophy, a lot of cross-referencing, there’s a lot of deep– [whistle from the audience] There’s a cricket! [laughter]… there’s a lot of detail… that I could not link link any poem to to myself. So we… and just followed the instructions.

Moderator: I imagine that being too literal with Beckett would suck he magic out of it.

AU: Yes…

Moderator: I wonder how much you need to know to create the play, and how much depth, obviously… deciding that Hamm had polio at 13 [for example] and that’s why his legs don’t work might not fit [Beckett’s directives], but how much real-world stuff did you need to hold on to, and how much could you do without …?

AU: Well, that’s a fascinating question, actually. Because that is the great misunderstanding– other than there being no humor– around Beckett, is that it’s obtuse and unrealistic. And actually it’s as it’s as realistic and any Chekhov .. it’s as naturalistic as any piece of Gorky or Ibsen. It’s not crazy, jazzed up … It’s a really, really realistic piece. And this realism inside that needs to be honored quite rigorously by the actors and the director. They can’t bend the directions. Because [narrative] “answers” like polio or schizophrenia or depression aren’t really enjoyable, and aren’t answers that allow you to resonate. So you avoid such prosaic [choices], but they play remains very real about our sense of the apocalypse. About the story of how much Hamm tells, how much that’s true. How much truth lies inside. Is it the story of how Hamm has failed, how all of us fail.


L to R: Bruce Spence, Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving, Andrew Upton and moderator Sarah Goodes. Photo: Amber Gokken via Twitter/Instagram

[Upton introduces the cast– Hugo Weaving, Sarah Peirse, Tom Budge and Bruce Spence–who take their seats onstage]

Moderator: As actors, do you come from the outside in or  do you work from the inside out, and how much truth do you need to pin down [your characters]?

Hugo Weaving: I tend to work from the outside in, I think, because the truth is not apparent immediately. I take [character cues] from the text’s architecture in, from observing [the play’s] form and structure, and then try and maintain that form, and then slowly illuminate for ourselves something about the internal journey to doom of these of these characters.

Moderator: Sarah, did you find, in the bin–

Sarah Peirse: It was HOT in the bin [laughs]. Yeah, he’s right… the architecture of the writing informs the way in which you start to understand rhythms that are within it. And you’re definitely surfing some fairly usual territory… [At the beginning of rehearsals] I was reasonably unsure about how it would proceed, but then, actually, if you just keep reading, and keep participating in the process of doing the lines out loud, and listening, in fact, the journey sort of makes itself apparent. That was an interesting experience.

Hugo Weaving: For any of you that play music.. I’m not a musician, but I would think it would be quite similar to being in an orchestra, or being in a small group, and working through a piece of music for the first time. You read music and you observe the score and meter, and the intervals and pauses– you observe the structure of it, and then, after while, the more you play that, the more you hear that, the more… the reasons you find for it being in the first place start to become apparent to you, and I think that’s very true of Beckett.

Moderator: What process did you need to find in the rehearsal room to bring the humor alive, or was the humor something that just bubbled up of its own accord?

Andrew Upton: It’s pretty impressive… it’s got some of the funniest lines hidden in it, but I do fear that if you read the outside world that is depicted too heavily, [the humor] is easy to lose sight of… “Oh god, it’s the end of the world, I’m a goner and there are all of these poor people in bins” [Laughter] But if you’re just IN there, a line like ‘What’s to keep me from going’ [

Hugo Weaving: Even though it’s the end of the world, and [the population is] down to four people…and they certainly think about it [being] very hard…Even if you were in that place, you would have to assume… they still have to resist… they can’t think about it 24/7, otherwise they’d just go mad. Well, they probably ARE mad [laughter]. They have to pass the time, and disappear into flights of fantasy, I suppose, in order to relieve the terrible boredom and despair. Therefore, it’s humorous. It becomes funny, despite… well, it’s both. It’s a deeply serious play, but it is funny. And I think, [in the worst of it],  the relationships seem to be they key to finding humor. The pairings, and the way those two groups interact with each other. And I think a lot of the initial humor seems to come from that.

Moderator: Tom, what was your experience in the rehearsal room?

Tom Budge: Um… difficult. [Laughs] At first. I found the language– to read– it’s real exciting and lovely. But I found it really hard to push it into a flow. And it took quite a lot out of me to get the highs and lows of what we had to do. I’m still figuring things out [Laughs]. It’s really interesting– you do have a moment, sometimes, I’m back in my little cave back there, I’m thinking about what we’ve just done, or something, and I’m thinking that’s the truest version of that interaction or something, and then I’ll turn that around in my brain [the next time we have to do the play] and think, ‘Oh, no! That wasn’t it!’ It’s still evolving, for me, still changing in small ways.

Andrew Upton: It’s very, very alive drama.


Night with The Actors photo: Sienna W via Twitter

Moderator: And Bruce?

Bruce Spence: It’s my first play in a bin [Laughs] Look, I’ve found it a superb journey. Mainly, to be really honest,  It was… the text… it’s always in the text. That’s where Beckett is.  And I’m sure that if you go and see another production of Endgame, it’ll be totally different to this one and so on. They’re all different, because it’s the human contribution that’s made. Particularly I think Andrew really has coached lots of textual and dramatic stuff out of us too, so I really give him a lot of credit for that. I’ve found it a wonderful journey. The comedy, or should I say the humor, just comes out of the moment, out of the language. You don’t consciously look for it.  Although Beckett did love vaudevillians, he loved sort of raw comedy, et cetera, you can see that in his sort of logic. But also, I just wanted to make a point: I think Beckett,  Endgame, Godot, et cetera,is part of a long legacy of writers like this. Especially from when the absurdists started writing, people like Beckett, Joyce and Pirandello and a million others. Then you had the logic of The Goon Show. And if you remember The Goon Show, there’s this sort of distorted logic in that that’s very similar to this, and then on and on, and even to Monty Python, etc, and I think a lot of people, a lot of writers even now owe a lot to Beckett, and that sort of way that he saw the world. That sort of jagged, distorted way.

Moderator: One final question for Hugo and Andrew, before we take questions from the audience: What was the evolution of working together, going from Waiting For Godot [in 2013] to Endgame? Did you develop a shorthand, or did you have to free-fall into it as a whole sort of experience?

Hugo Weaving: Let me answer: working on Godot was very, very difficult. Really the hardest thing that I had ever done, and I think that’s true for Richard [Roxburgh] as well. And it was pretty difficult for Andrew. So it was a very, very difficult play, but an incredibly rewarding play, and it was the most extraordinary experience. I really loved working on that, I loved working with Andrew on it, I think Andrew sensed that it was– I really think Andrew kind of gets Beckett in a great way. So once we picked into that seam, we were talking about perhaps doing another Beckett, and then Andrew suggested we do Endgame. So it really been a logical progression for us.

Andrew Upton: Yeah, I think we took the harder [play first]… it’s hard to describe. It is so plain and simple, Beckett’s work,  and that’s really hard to get. It’s hard to play, as actors, it’s hard to get it right, hard to get at the dialogue when you’re doing so much action,  it’s very, very difficult to hold in your hand, very mercurial. And I think all of those terrifying lessons– those rehearsals, battered as we were, we couldn’t…

Hugo Weaving: It was an emotional release, our first weeks.

Andrew Upton: Beckett is demanding.  I think audiences know that, and they weren’t expecting tea. It was a very free flowing experience.

Hugo Weaving: The first thing I think I learned doing Godot, that I brought into this [Endgame], was the technical demands of the piece are so acute. And yet also– you have to observe the structure– but you need to to be entirely present. And open every second of the play.  And I think that’s probably true  with every play, but with Beckett, somehow, much more extremely true than any other playwright. And I think it as a wonderful thing to discover, to bring to this [play.]

Moderator: It sounds like a real leap of faith.

Andrew Upton: Yeah, it’s a leap of faith, all right [laughter].


“Watched “Lord Elrond”- Hugo Weaving’s play #Endgame . Marvellous performance! Panel was impressive too.” Sienna W via Twitter

Moderator: It sounds like a real emotional tumble. You were talking about music earlier [Hugo]…  that at some point you have to let go.

Hugo Weaving: Well, Tamas Ascher, not Andy, was going to direct Waiting for Godot, and he couldn’t come for the first week. He was indisposed, so Andrew took over rehearsals for the first week, and we weren’t missing him anyway, because Tamas is Hungarian, so everything has to go through a translator, so we thought maybe we’ll make the most of this because we’ll have a talk alone about Beckett because [Tamas] couldn’t immediately come [to Sydney]. And then he didn’t come… and it became very clear during the second week of rehearsals that he WASN’T coming. [Laughs].

Andrew Upton: Not at all.

Tom Budge: How appropriate! [Laughs] Because it’s CALLED…

Hugo Weaving: And so Andrew took over… and it was a challenge going forward, [though] it’s not hard for me have faith in Andrew, that’s very easy. That was a very good side effect. But it was suddenly a very different experience and a great experience, doing this play. A very exciting [rehearsal] room. A very open room.


“Happy birthday Samuel Beckett! What an evening at SydneyTheatreCo #Endgame #HugoWeaving #TomBudge #AndrewUpton” Valerie L via Twitter

Question #1 from the audience: Could you describe the role of silence in the play? The silences and pauses seem so ‘active’. Was that a conscious choice?

Hugo Weaving: Well, there are pauses that Beckett had, and a Beckett pause probably lasts between three and five ‘beats’, I suppose, then there are long pauses, and then there are silences that we have. So there are a couple of moments where we observe a sort of full stupid, or dumb silence where nothing is happening at all, almost, I suppose, it’s anti-theatrical in a way, but it’s a quite interesting place to play… There’s a lot going on inside [these characters], but it’s when the death…the nature of where they are fills them, that nothing can be said and nothing can happen, so actually, in a way, that can provide desperate, empty silences from the point of view of the characters. But they’re full of a lot of internal [reflection].

Bruce Spence: It’s like records of music, really. It’s the language, it’s the dramatic action that’s happened before,  the silence, and the dramatic action that might follow the silence. But there are silences and SILENCES. We had… when we were doing rehearsal at one stage, we paused at every pause, and it went on and on and on, and then we realized, ‘hang on, that silence is that long, and THAT silence is THAT long, and that silence is THAT long.’ [Laughs] That pause is that long. You need to sort of play that out. In all drama, whether it’s Beckett or whoever. It’s an organic thing. The factor that really determines a lot of that are the individuals that you’re working opposite. And so, with the four of us, we sort of combine and create an energy, and that’s what creates that music.

Sarah Peirse: But also, essentially, it’s the transaction that the performers have with the audience that actually forms the silence… the performers introduce the silence, and the audience is where the silence is met.


Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton. Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

Question #2: Do you think the dramatic impact of the play has changed in the decades since the play was originally written? Beckett once said, “There are a heap of words, but no drama.” Is this still true?

Andrew Upton: I think there’s a great deal of drama in Endgame, actually. It’s got a gruesome drive inside it that’s quite relentless. Made– only made riveting by this feeling I’ve sort of whipped into them. [Laughs]

Hugo Weaving: He described it… He said ‘Godot is this long play about these awful people’ [Laughs]…. He said, ‘God help me, I can do no other’. [Laughs]

Andrew Upton: [Paraphrased] There is no highly-composed, staged ‘drama’ in the classical sense, but inherent drama created by the interaction of the characters.

Hugo Weaving: And even in the telling of the story, like Hamm’s preposterously long story, is sort of told in four or five voices, so there’s drama inside that, there’s the storyteller himself, he’s kind of acting the storyteller role, and then he’s telling the story from a couple of individuals’ points of view, and then there’s… you’ve also got a cricket getting comedy gone… that’s dark…  there is quite a lot of human turmoil in that drama, if you can only find one.  Beckett was probably saying to all the rest of us not to expect, you know, damsels getting run over by a train [or other stock plot devices.] There’s an enormous amount of human turmoil and drama in ALL of Beckett’s work, fantastic self-censorship, fantastic celebration of failure, and not knowing, and not being able to carry on. But carrying on anyway.


Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Hugo Weaving and Andrew Upton. Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

Question #3: It struck me that Hugo didn’t move his feet for the duration of the performance. There was no fidgeting. How did Hugo and Tom go about developing the different physical aspects of their characters? Was it intuitive, text-based, individual or mutual approach?

Tom Budge: Beckett states specific things about Clov [in his stage directions, such as his] stiff, staggering walk. And so for the first week [of rehearsals] I had one  fused leg, and moved the other one, so I kind of walked around like that. On the Friday night of the first week, I was back in my hotel room. I was limping. [Laughs] I couldn’t bend my leg. So I thought, aw, that’s probably going to ruin everything. [Laughs] So I kind of read a lot into his– Clov’s final speech, where he says now that he’s so bowed, and I loved the idea that the world is just crushing him. So that when he does fall, he will be fully pushed to the ground.  So I liked the idea of a bent back pushing him down. And that is also symmetrical, so I’m mindful of the physio of it. [Laughs]. That’s the idea of of it. So that’s why I kind of ended up on that foot.

Hugo Weaving: Again, Beckett [specifies that] Hamm can’t walk and is blind. So I decided… he’s sitting in a chair, and can’t lie down and can’t, you know [stand]… that his feet were probably swollen. So we got these very thick knitted socks. My feet do go to sleep. But they’re not… I do occasinally find it difficult in the curtain call to walk. [Laughs] But the hardest thing for me was the… not being able to see. And in rehearsal trying to work out whether it was best for me to literally not be able to see, or to be able to see a little bit through the glasses. And.. [the lenses are] painted, so it’s like looking at the back of a white wall very close to my eyes. But with little flecks I can see through, which I thought was important, because I couldn’t– It’s fiunny. I found it very hard to reference.. I found it very hard to speak. I couldn’t reference the visual. I found it very hard to judge logically in [telling] that long story. I found it very hard without any visual references to do. So that was a big challenge for me.


Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twittter

Question #4: Just coming off that physicality question, my question is for Bruce Spence: You’re a prolific voiceover artist as well as a film and stage actor with a distinctive voice. What are the differences between voice acting and fully embodied roles? How do you approach creating a character with no physical presence?

Bruce Spence: Well, it was hard doing the bin. [Laughs] Obviously I had to thnk about that. Especially in rehearsal it was real hard. This one’s much easier. It’s the trext that really helps me. It must sound boring to say that, but I don’t really, consciously think up a voice. I just look at the script, and also listen to the music of the other actors too. I just work off the text.  And it’s it’s just [how]  the character that sort enters the situation at the turn of the vocal cues. When you’re doing animation [or voice roles where no other actors are present], you’re often given a character breakdown. So the character breakdown will often help you find the voice anyway. Once you know the character’s journey, et cetera, that will help you find the character’s sort of vocal psyche, level et cetera.

Hugo Weaving: The other thing is, in animation, the animators these days actually film actors during the recording, because they want to see the actor’s face. They use the actor’s face to animate the character. So whatever you’re doing, they absolutely… now,  they get try and the actors together to record, or they have you go back and re-record [lines in post-production as changes are made.] But the animators increasingly really want to see the actor’s face.  And they get all the actors to do physical stuff, whether you’re doing… whatever you’re being, whatever creature it is that you’re animating. The animators love that.

Bruce Spence: They’ll also provide you the drawings too, of your character, to kind of help you with your characterization.


Photo: Sydney Theatre Co via Twitter/Instagram

Question #5: What was Sarah’s experience of being the only woman in an ostensibly very ‘masculine’ play?

Sarah Peirse: I didn’t feel particularly… I guess in some respects Nell is not… everybody’s representative of beyond themselves,  of beyond their particular character. I didn’t feel particularly that the lack… other than the lack of potential of exploring Nell anyway. But she’s also… she’s the first one to die of these four, so I think that the read became, rather than a gender exploration, it became a journey of her limited returns. So really it was an experience of that rather than anything I think I felt particularly [about her gender.] Other than being conscious that this [relationship between Nagg and Nell] is a long marriage, so there were the rhythms of the marriage that it placed. The sort of irritations and the affection and the companionship and the longevity. And then at times the sort of.. we’re ourselves by Hamm being my son, so all of a sudden you’re playing or existing between two males, and I felt that that was a… for an older, dying woman whose husband and son were present, they were elements that I was conscious of. But that was not.. I wasn’t particularly thinking in gender terms.

Hugo Weaving: It’s interesting that you say that too, because I often think of these characters as being of indeterminate gender, unaware, and I think that Hamm overreacts at his mother, being the character of Hamm. So I sense very strongly his relationship to his mother, and also to his father, in his downfall…


Photo: Valerie L via Twitter

Question #6: Can you comment on the set design?

Hugo Weaving: Nick [Schlieper]’s not here… Nick did design the set and the lighting. I know initially he was looking at a lot of pictures of big water towers, and he was thinking of the play as a vertical play rather than a horizontal one.  His set for Godot was a fantastic, open landscape– for the proscenium, but with a great sense of space. And he was kind of interested in the claustrophobia, the nature of a set like this. Also, I think there was a [person] that used to take refuge in a tower up in the hills just outside Lebanon, just the walls, and I suppose he had that in the back of his mind as well.

Andrew Upton: We had a lot of chats about setting up a peopled space [creatively approaching Beckett’s stark set specifications]

Hugo Weaving: Basically he just says ‘Two windows. A door. A chair. Two bins. Grey light’. That’s really not much. So as long as you have those, don’t add too much onto it. Just don’t.  You can’t stick anything on Beckett, it won’t stay. It won’t work.

Moderator: That’s all we have time for. Thanks to our cast


“Rakish, intelligent and modest as always.” Photo: Yvette (@LyridsMC) via Twitter

***

Here are excerpts from the latest review of STC Endgame, with a few new production photos (by Lisa Tomasetti) originally posted to STC Facebook. STC recently posted a gallery of 13 of Tomasetti’s performance stills, though not the full range of photos that have appeared in reviews and elsewhere.. so there remains hope we still haven’t seen them all.  As always, the full reviews at sites of origin are well worth a look, so just follow the links.


Tom Budge as Clov and Hugo Weaving as Hamm  Photo (all 3 performance photos): Lisa Tomasetti

David Kary, Sydney Arts Guide: “A Samuel Beckett night at the theatre is like no other. One is just taken over by his bold, raw take on life. Even after all these years, one is still gobsmacked, stunned, by what one is taking place on stage. The experience is like being set upon by the coldest, bleakest wind….

One of our finest actors, Hugo Weaving, delivers one of his most memorable performances as one of Beckett’s most cruel, cantankerous characters, the blind tyrant, Hamm… The performances by Tom Budge as Clov, just brilliant, and Sarah Peirse and Bruce Spence, as his incarcerated parents are perfectly judged…

Summing up, this is the kind of play that gives one the creeps. I saw ENDGAME over a week a go, and I am still haunted by it. Hamm’s deeply sadistic nature…Clov endlessly running after him…hunchbacked…climbing up and down ladders…reporting back to him that he has seen nothing….All I can say is…be prepared!”

Maire Sheehan, AltMedia: “Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame makes what might seem tedious mesmerising as the players’ every gesture, word, and expression evoke a range of responses from the tragic to the ludicrous…

Hugo Weaving is mesmerising.  He is strapped into a chair and wears glasses that block out his sight.  He is the one in control, or is he?  He issues orders but he cannot move. The sparse stage setting and directions make Weaving’s smallest gesture highly visible and open to interpretation…

With a limited set and brilliant performances, STC’s production of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece is not to be missed. ”

Syke On Stage (Facebook): “After Godot, I suppose, Endgame, a one-act play with just four characters, probably stands as SB’s tour de force and director, Andrew Upton, has milked it for everything it’s worth, with his actors displaying the very keenest sense of comic timing…

While the performances that surround Weaving’s are robust, it’s Hugo’s production: suddenly and singularly, his idiosyncrasies and particularities—his Hugoisms—are optimally exploited; his deliberation in diction, declamatory disposition and facial contortions are all exceptionally well-utilised here, making for (at the obvious risk of alliteration) a charismatic, colourful and completely compelling characterisation…

Upton and team have encapsulated Endgame as precisely and evocatively as I can envisage being achieved. This, for mine, is definitive Beckett, the kind of Beckett which Beckett would’ve heartily endorsed. The man whose parents had high hopes of entering their quantity surveying enterprise didn’t disappoint, having become a surveyor of the human condition: marking it up, measuring, calibrating and calculating, so that we might build a chillingly accurate picture of ourselves; our foibles and follies. Upton has dusted it off and made it vibrant, even in its dinginess, all over again.”


“Having a chat with #HugoWeaving post #Endgame #play at #STC #theatre . Great #Actor…” Amber Gokken via Twitter/Instagram

Diana Simonds, Stage Noise: “In 2013, the cast of STC’s Waiting For Godot  waited in vain for fabled Hungarian director Tamas Ascher to arrive and take charge of rehearsals. He was unwell and, at the last minute withdrew, giving STC’s artistic director Andrew Upton approximately ten minutes’ notice to take over. The result was a triumph for him and actors Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins and Philip Quast… There were some churlish types however who whispered that Upton was somehow merely the beneficiary of Ascher’s phoned in instructions via associate Anna Lengyel: that the production surely wasn’t really  his work…was it? The doubters should now be eating a large serving of humble pie if they were at the first night of Upton’s latest adventures in BeckettWorld…

Fascinating then that the production reunites Upton and Weaving: two men whose great friendship has recently been celebrated in print in the weekend papers. They seem, on the face of it, to embody opposing qualities: Weaving – all grounded gravitas and Upton – all impish flightiness. Yet appearances are deceiving and, of course, the superficial is exactly that. From their close collaboration on Endgame  it might be said that each brings out the opposite in the other, so Weaving’s old man Hamm is as capricious as Ariel even though he is confined to a chair and by his blindness. And Upton’s overall vision of Samuel Beckett’s one hour-50 minutes of waiting for the end of the world is at once as terrifying and hilarious as that unthinkable but logically likely event might really be… They are aided and abetted in the enterprise by a superb team whose expertise is exhilarating in its creativity and attention to detail…

Budge and Weaving bicker relentlessly but the weight of their miserable discontent is leavened by the ability of both actors to feel and extract every drop of humour from a word, a pause, a look, an intonation. The continuing ripples of laughter and outbreaks of chuckles and chortles coming from an audience in attendance at almost two hours of the end of the world is a tribute to the actors and their director in realising the play’s craftily concealed possibilities…

Like the moment in chess when it becomes clear all is lost, Endgame  is not easy, but like chess, if surrender is inevitable that’s when something else happens. In Beckett’s play that something is a play that rewards the capitulation of both audience and actors alike: give yourself up to it and the prize is intoxicating and life-enhancing. The end of the world may possibly be quite similar… Endgame  will sell out and no extension is possible as Upton and Weaving will be leaving for the Barbican Theatre for the restaging there of STC’s Waiting For Godot. Miraculously the original cast has been reassembled (Luke Mullins is currently playing Clov in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s own Endgame!) and I hope to be reporting on it from London. Meanwhile: this Endgame  is a brilliant production and not to be missed.”


A behind-the-scenes look at Endgame’s trailer, via STC Instagram

Cassie Tongue, Aussie Theatre: “Last year, Weaving and director Kip Williams turned the Roslyn Packer Theatre (formerly the Sydney Theatre) inside out, and Weaving’s Macbeth filled the gaping auditorium, filling the extraordinarily large space with his tormented Scottish King. This year, as Beckett’s Hamm, Weaving is confined to a chair onstage, and still he fills the room and draws the eye consistently, and he does it with a marriage of harshness, weariness, and a pinprick or two of vulnerability that melts into the darkness, leaving with a mess that lingers. It’s thrilling…

It’s an astonishing performance because of its exhaustive complexity; Weaving’s own brilliance allows him to create a Hamm that radiates authenticity; not quite a broad-strokes tyrant or distant cipher, but someone who dances on the edge of sympathetic before pulling back and ordering instead a cruel command…

Upton and Weaving work well together; in Upton’s Waiting for Godot, which will tour London’s Barbican Theatre later this year, Weaving’s Vladimir was disarmingly good. Here, in Endgame, which Weaving has associate directed, together they creates the tiniest sensations that tend to take a corner of the brain and refuse to be forgotten…

Upton’s directorial touch is never light, it’s too decisive to be light, but between Weaving’s mastery from his chair and Budge’s bent-double pottering, occasionally with one battered bunny slipper and one boot on, and the cracked-white faces of Nell and Nagg peeping and huddling, and the softest sounds of dripping water,  it becomes easy to think he’s not there at all, that this play has stood in its place at the Roslyn Packer for a hundred years, that these four have lived here too long, long before and after Upton showed his hand and shaped this one hundred or so minutes’ worth, and that’s perhaps the greatest compliment it can be given.”

***

You can hear Bruce Spence’s ABC Radio interview about Endgame and his film career here.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

The Key Man is now available to stream on Netflix in the US.

The Dressmaker is set to complete post-production by the end of June. an early cut is being shown to potential buyers at the Cannes Film Festival this month; according to Inside Film, the distribution right for 18 countries have already been snapped up, and the film will be screened for potential US buyers on 30 April. The film opens in Australia on 22 October and might possibly have its international premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Healing has been awarded the ADG Finders Award by the Australian Directors Guild, according to Inside Film. The award is given to the most accomplished submitted film which has yet to receive US distribution. Director Craig Monahan “will accompany the film when it’s screened later in the year for distributors, managers and agents in LA and NY.” Ideally this will help the film get deserved theatrical distribution, and might spur Anchor Bay into rehinking its appalling treatment of the DVD release and its laughably inaccurate cover art, which I respect the cast and filmmakers too much to display here. Suffice to say that apart from a poorly color-enhanced image featuring Don Hany and the eagle (a more artistic version of which served as the film’s Australian poster art and home release art) NOTHING depicted on Anchor Bay’s imaginary cover actually appears in the film. I thought this sort of insulting treatment of foreign films in US home release died out in the VHS era, but alas, no. Let’s hope it’s not too late to change Anchor Bay’s mind. If they release the DVD with that cover, I certainly won’t be wasting my money on it… I have already bought the Aussie version. Most of all I’d like to see Healing in the cinema setting it richly deserves.

STC Endgame Night With The Actors Post-Performance Discussion; New Reviews

Here’s the “Twitter transcript” of Sydney Theatre Company’s first Night With The Actors event on 13 April. Cast members Hugo Weaving, Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse and Bruce Spence sat for a Q & A session following that evening’s performance.

And here are quotes from reviews that have appeared since my last entry. They continue to be uniformly ecstatic. As always, I recommend clicking the links for the full texts at sites of origin, particularly if you want more background about the play. Since no new performance photos have appeared (you can see the full batch of Lisa Tomasetti’s photos that have been posted in reviews here) I’ll intersperse some fan photos.

Jo Litson, Sunday Telegraph and jolitson.com: “The Beckett Estate is famously rigid, requiring productions to stick to the letter of Beckett’s very specific stage directions. Upton and set designer Nick Schlieper have come up with an imposing, monumental staging that abides more or less faithfully with Beckett’s requirements but makes for a far more threatening space than a bare, grey-lit room…

Weaving is in masterful form as Hamm. Legs tied and wearing opaque glasses, his face and arms, and even his tongue at one point, are wonderfully expressive but it’s his extraordinarily eloquent voice that mesmerises, so full of different textures, tones and sounds: velvety one minute, snarling the next. His Hamm is a tyrant but with a jaunty, fruity presence and a wry sense of humour. It’s a compelling performance.

Budge’s performance is all about body language. Bent-over, he performs with a robustly comical physicality. The way he removes the sheet covering Hamm, or climbs the ladder, or interacts with Hamm, suggests well-oiled routines he has developed over time to fill the endless, empty days, while his attempt to get rid of a flea in his pants is priceless…

Endgame is almost unbearably bleak but at the same time surprisingly funny. Upton and his fine cast find that balance perfectly in an engrossing, lively, moving production.”


“Very excited to see Endgame at the Sydney Theatre Company!…” Sophie Morgan via Instagram

Catherine McNamara, Concrete Playground: “Andrew Upton’s Endgame is beautiful Beckett. Inasmuch as it invites us to wallow in the great fear and inertia of existence for 110 minutes, till we’re asking (along with main character Hamm), ‘Is it not time for my pain killer?’… In my mind, the true wonder of Endgame is the humour that punctuates the pain. The misery is a given, the moments of light and childish hope are the miracle…

Even if revelling in the cyclical despair of the universe isn’t your thing, see Endgame for the sheer display of vocal and physical prowess of the actors. Hugo Weaving as Hamm is immobile from the shoulders down but brings his character to life with wild acrobatics of the voice and face. It is beautiful to hear a master actor tasting language, as if he has forgotten how words are supposed to work, so syllables surprise and fly out unmeasured. He nails the harshness and fragility of Hamm, his constant contradictions and reneging…

Endgame pokes fun at the ‘game of theatre’, with its eternal status struggles and fabrications of time and space. At times Weaving assumes the role of the brooding poet, sending up the agony of creative genius. He evaluates his own monologues and frets the passing of time. He sits, in a weathered throne, in a forgotten castle, in the depths of the earth. A tyrant of emptiness; his kingdom an immense void…

It is worth going along just to see these wonderful actors present a theatre-changing text. In every corner of this uneventful endgame is a comment on life and society. Beckett’s text is quick, captivating and efficient. And at the ‘end’ he’s having the laugh on us. We’re accustomed to momentous things happening in the theatre, but in this world, if you’re crying, you’re still alive.


“Thank you STC for ticking another Beckett play off my bucket list. Brilliant. Superb. I am in awe.” Rachael Belle Myers via Twitter/Instagram

Larry Heath, The AU Review: “Directed by Andrew Upton, who also directed Godot with Weaving, has done a fine job of bringing Beckett’s well known text to live. The set design by Nick Schlieper is exquisite: the sense that they are deep in the basement of a castle-like structure is well achieved – the building seems to go on forever, while the all important windows on either side give the sense of the nothingness that apparently exists beyond those walls…

Weaving’s performance is astonishing and he holds the show together – just as the role requires of him. Given he is confined to a rolling chair, the range (and tongue) he’s able to convey just reaffirms how great of an actor he is. There’s not a moment that goes by in the one act play – which comes in to just under two hours – that you’re not compelled by his performance. And that’s down to, almost solely, his voice. As he jumps between philosopher, psycophant and borderline psychopath, his Hamm is theatrical brilliance. Costume Designer Renée Mulder has done a great job at adding to Hamm’s eccentricities, and with Hugo as Associate Director of the production, he would have added more than enough of his own take on Hamm’s situation to truly embody this typically absurd character…

Endgame in its very nature is a dark tale, with the cruelty of Hamm’s character and the rather depressing state of his bin-dwelling parents (pictured above) serving to create an overarching sense of despair to the whole affair. But Upton, Weaving and the cast have done well to balance that with slapstick, typical absurdist humour and performances which seem just over-the-top enough to keep the element of fantasy in the air, while never limiting the power or effect of any scene. A tightrope they walk with skill and care… Endgame in its very nature is a dark tale, with the cruelty of Hamm’s character and the rather depressing state of his bin-dwelling parents (pictured above) serving to create an overarching sense of despair to the whole affair. But Upton, Weaving and the cast have done well to balance that with slapstick, typical absurdist humour and performances which seem just over-the-top enough to keep the element of fantasy in the air, while never limiting the power or effect of any scene. A tightrope they walk with skill and care.”


STC’s posters for the production   Photos: Yvette Wan via Twitter

Ian Dickson, Australian Book Review: “Hamm is often played as a bullying, tormenting and tormented despot, but that is only a part of him. Weaving’s Hamm is wonderfully fantastical. Denied the use of his eyes and legs, he makes the most of his arms, hands, and marvellously expressive fingers, stabbing the air with them or fluttering them like the ripples on a lake. Even his tongue gets a moment in the spotlight. But it is the glorious Weaving voice that truly commands the stage. From sonorous boom to almost whisper, he coaxes every ounce of poetry from the text without ever seeming ‘poetic’. He initiates the often played routines sometimes with relish and at others almost in spite of himself. At the few moments when the anguish that he tries to keep at bay surfaces, he is shattering. This is a great performance and a pinnacle of Weaving’s distinguished career…

If Tom Budge’s Clov is an Ariel figure he is a grotesque misshapen one. Surprisingly eschewing the stiff staggering walk Beckett specifies in the script, Budge skitters around the stage like a hunched over Nosferatu. Less bitter than most Clovs, there is an innocence about him which Weaving’s Hamm gleefully exploits, but when he does erupt he is momentarily formidable. He expertly juggles the huge ladder which he uses to peer out of the high windows, and his routine with the flea powder he uses on himself is a splendid piece of clowning…

An artist for whom the verbs to create and to fail were synonymous, Beckett was surprisingly positive about the original French version of the piece and it remained a favorite work for the rest of his life. This production does him proud… Now messrs Upton and Weaving, can we have Krapp’s Last Tape please?”


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