ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett, directed by Daniel Brooks, with Diego Matamoros, Eric Peterson, Maria Vacratsis and Joseph Ziegler. Presented by Soulpepper at the Young Centre (50 Tank House Lane). Previews begin Friday (October 26), opens Wednesday (October 31) and runs to November 17, Monday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday 1:30 pm. $51-$68, rush $22, student $5-$32. 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca. See listing.
The longer Diego Matamoros pursues his acting career, the more he sees his work as being about codependency.
One of the founding members of Soulpepper, Matamoros feels those links between people especially strongly in his latest production, Samuel Beckett's Endgame. In it, the blind, wheelchair-bound Hamm (Joseph Ziegler) is intimately connected to his servant, Clov (Matamoros). Sharing a room with the two men, Hamm's parents, Nagg (Eric Peterson) and Nell (Maria Vacratsis), occasionally peep out from the trash cans in which they live.
"These pairs of codependencies set up a classic domestic situation," says the actor. "They're representative of what we feel at home with our own families, relationships of long standing in which those involved aren't friends, mentors or teachers. That particular symbiosis will resonate with everyone in the audience."
The strength of connection in families echoes another mutually supportive relationship that's central for Matamoros: that between actor and audience.
"The live interaction that happens within a theatre's walls is something special. I've seen Beckett's work on film, and it just doesn't have the same effect on me. There's something amazingly aware in his writing that requires a live audience. The exchange between performers onstage and the audience in the seats out front is what makes, in a shared fashion, the theatrical experience."
This Soulpepper staging of Endgame is a re-envisioning of a successful 1999 production at Harbourfront Centre, before the company moved into its Young Centre home. Daniel Brooks again directs, with Matamoros the sole returning actor; the design team is the same.
"Daniel and I wanted to work together on something we first visited 13 years ago," says Matamoros. In fact, they have a long history, having performed together in Theatre Smith-Gilmour's The Green Bird in the 80s. Brooks also directed the actor in John Mighton's Half Life and Soulpepper productions of Phèdre, The Aleph and Chekhov one-acts.
"Now that I think of it, ours is another symbiotic relationship," he says, smiling. "Like any other, it has its disagreements and conflicts, as well as its pleasures. We're excited about revisiting Endgame because the production now has a depth it couldn't achieve the first time, in part because we were younger and had less life experience.
"We both wanted to recreate something we knew was good and powerful, and this time dig a little deeper."
While he can be philosophical about the piece, Matamoros also feels strongly that the script has a comic side.
"At one point a characters says that there's nothing funnier than unhappiness, and if you think of the great comics - Chaplin, Keaton, even Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden - you can see how tragedy and trouble can be the source of laughter."
Matamoros has been thinking a lot about the play's central relationship, between Hamm and Clov.
"Hamm is the leader here, the power at stage centre. He's blind and unable to move about on his own, since his chair is on small casters. Needing Clov to give him motion, Hamm is trapped onstage. Clov, in his turn, can't sit down and must stay and obey his master. At the same time, he's trying to leave Hamm by himself, both at certain moments in the play and in the big picture, for good."
Here Matamoros pauses reflectively and recalls a moment in his creative process.
"I realized at some point in rehearsal that you can't leave or replace the most intense, deep relationships you have made. No matter how terrible the situation is in which you find yourself, where and what would you find that's different?
"Given freedom, can you rid yourself of yourself? I don't think it's that easy to be someone different."