REVIEW: ‘masterful performance’ by actor in Samuel Beckett’s Company

The Star reporter Brenda Harwood
Saturday, March 23
Allen Hall Theatre
Dunedin Fringe Festival

"A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine."

So begins Samuel Beckett’s novella Company, in which an old man alone in the dark imagines he is not a man alone in the dark. For company.

Craving stillness and silence, the man is stirred by figments of his imagination and beset by memories, which may or may not be his own.

In the hands of an extraordinary team of afterburner creatives — actor Simon O’Connor, directors Richard Huber and Stuart Young, lighting designer Marty Roberts, and sound designer Kerian Varaine — Beckett’s philosophical ruminations became a mesmerising theatre monologue.

Taking the premise of the piece quite literally, O’Connor emerged into view on a bare stage from the dark and remained dimly, subtly lit throughout the performance.

This had the effect of heightening the senses and enabling the audience to focus on listening to O’Connor’s wonderful, characterful voice, beautifully projected, with every word crystal-clear.

It also enhanced the experience of Beckett’s language, which was both precise and playful, and full of verbal images that packed a punch.

Overlaying O’Connor’s voice were occasional murmuring sounds, part of an intriguing sound and visual design that enhanced the dream-like feel of the piece.

While dimly lit, physicality remained an important aspect of the monologue, and O’Connor’s movements added to a spell-binding, masterful performance, that was also an impressive feat of memory.

O’Connor impressed the Fringe Festival judges. He received the "best festival performer" award for Company.