Last night, I went to see a production of Beckett’s ‘First Love’ by the Gare St Lazare Players at the Half Moon in Cork. I couldn’t miss that! It was the first time I ever saw something by Beckett on stage, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was brilliant!
In a few words, the story is that of a man who, after his father’s death, is thrown out of home and meets a woman on a bench (his new home). He becomes obsessed by her, a feeling he associates with love. After a few encounters on the bench, he moves into the spare room where she lives. After one night of sex, he keeps living there, enduring the noise from the clients she receives in rotation. Finally, he abandons her on the day of the birth of their child because he cannot stand the cries, these have kept haunting him to this day.
It wasn’t a play per se, but rather a recitation of the short story, ‘First Love’. I did read it before, but the performance by Conor Lovett gave it a completely different dimension. First of all, there was the man, Conor Lovett, with a physical appearance worthy of a Beckett character. He had an impressive presence on stage and managed to give life to words. Reading the story, I might have smiled, but last night, I laughed! Many would consider Beckett’s writings as pessimistic, I think they are just realist and pragmatic. Death is a certainty, the only one we have, and life is just, well, time spent waiting for death. Now, Beckett’s vision of that waiting for death might seem bleak to some, but I personally find it quite funny. It is definitely ‘food for thought’, if nothing else. Beckett’s characters do not seem too bothered by the apparent insignificance of their life, and his humour highlights that we might take it all a bit too seriously!
“The smell of corpses, distinctly perceptible under those of grass and humus mingled, I do not find unpleasant, a trifle on the sweet side perhaps, a trifle heady, but how infinitely preferable to what the living emit, their feet, teeth, armpits, arse, sticky foreskins and frustrated ovules.” (Beckett, ‘First Love’)