The End is one of Samuel Beckett’s curiously less celebrated pieces despite it’s reputation as one of his most compelling. It’s a one hour, one-man play chronicling the destitution of a man from his expulsion from a caring facility to laying down as his life reaches a quiet conclusion.

Marcus Lamb (that’s Des O’ Malley from the excellent Charlie episodic in case you were wondering) delivers the only type of performance that can do a Beckett undertaking any justice. The compelling text demands a sure-hand to deliver it, and Lamb demonstrates an effusive respect with a stoic and unyielding delivery.

The production itself is a contradiction, the verbosity of Beckett as we know him presented in the guise of how he saw himself torn, ragged and in terminal consideration of his own mortality. Cursed by circumstance and left without hope, he’s left with the less celebrated things in life to amuse himself e.g. a finger up the arse. Only Beckett can make such an act seem poetic, but it’s up to the man on stage to get the reaction. The more obvious comic relief often takes care of itself, but Lamb adeptly delivers the tricky subtleties of Becketts humour to audible titters a noteworthy achievement.

There are also sudden oscillations between vulnerability and rage with absolutely no warning but it’s packed with resonance. Referring to kids cycling by on their paper-round.. “Kids screaming the names of the paper, headlines too…” sends him into a fit of anger, so detached from reality he’s no longer capable of accepting it.

He speaks about being unable to tell the difference between a religious fanatic and an escaped lunatic, an assertion that’s perhaps more timely today than ever before.

As with any one-man show, Lamb is tasked with interpreting many characters, from a helpful old woman to a brutish Dub, it’s a testament to the performance that this is never distracting.

The show is aided by accomplished direction from Cathal Quinn, the lighting is well orchestrated and the text is nurtured with a simple but fittingly dark stage design.

“In the end, I made a noise with my mouth” says Lamb, but nothing comes out. He is alone. It can be seen as a microcosm of Becketts entire body of work, so cherished and yet so tormented. It takes skill to pull off a Beckett work of this magnitude, and this production succeeds.

Photograph: Bob Adelman/Corbis

The End
by Samuel Beckett
The New Theatre & Mouth On Fire
Jan 26th – Jan 31st
@ 7.30pm (Prev Mon 26th)
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: €15 / €12 (conc) / €10 (prev / grp 10+)

Written by Shane Hennessy