Before trying to sleep in the single bed in his shabby apartment, elderly Joe checks behind windows and doors for monsters — forgetting that there is one from which he can never escape.
Eh Joe is Dublin Gate Theatre’s astonishing adaptation of Beckett’s first TV play, featuring a fearsomely gripping performance from Michael Gambon as a man haunted by the most frightening ghost of all — himself.
As Joe sits up, his sleep disturbed by the Voice of a woman from his past, Gambon’s face is projected on a semi-transparent screen in front of the spare set. Lit interrogatively by a single spot, the camera closes in on him almost imperceptibly, until his features — and inner turmoil — are displayed large and uncensored.
Gambon has no words; no defence against the terrible accusatory truth in his head being voiced by Penelope Wilton. Yet, in thirty minutes and without a single line of dialogue, he manages to create an expressive and harrowing performance which the audience cannot tear their eyes away from.
The sparse and terrible beauty of Beckett’s words conjure up images which use Gambon’s face as a set: we can almost see the characters in the pain-etched lines of his face; witness the actions from his past reflected in his eyes as they flit from vulnerable fear, to grim defiance, then to bitter recollection.
Intimately staged and with Gambon’s definitive, claustrophobic performance, Eh Joe shines a dazzling and revealing searchlight on how the deeds of the past can never truly be buried.
Eh Joe is at the Lyceum Theatre until 31 August