Theatre review: First Love at the Arcola

Conor Lovett in First Love by Samuel Beckett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett, presented by Gare St

Conor Lovett in First Love by Samuel Beckett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett, presented by Gare St Lazare, 20th November - 13th December 2014, press night 21st November 2014 at 7.30pm, Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL,, - Credit: Archant

Devastating Samuel Beckett tragedy a lyrical treat, says Emily Govan.

First Love is one of the Irish writer and Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett’s first novellas, now brought to us at the intimate surroundings of Dalston’s Arcola Theatre.

International theatre production company Gare St Lazare Players Ireland, consisting of director Judy Hegarty Lovett and actor Conor Lovett, has become known for performances of the prose of Beckett. In recent years the company has produced work made up mainly of recitations of the novels of the legendary Irish virtuoso of black comedy.

In this short story we are told of how a man who has been evicted from his home after the death of his father is discovered by a prostitute on a park bench.

The glamorous woman takes him home and their relationship evolves from this point, as the man goes from infatuation to returning to his aimless wanderings through life. The tale proves to be unnerving and devastating: it’s a story of the hopelessness of the human condition. Beckett’s distinctive black humour is apparent – indeed this plot is regarded as a masterpiece of his perversity.

Conor Lovett, who has performed in 18 roles by the writer, performs the monologue of the man who can’t forget his expulsion from the family home and his infatuation with the woman he has met.

Lovett gives a fantastic performance – the writing is clever and cruel, and he brings it across cleverly and with self-deprecation. Aficionados of Beckett’s work will feel that they know this narrator of old – for not only does it echo other work, but Lovett seems to take on the persona himself as if the two were one and the same.

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A perfect blend of tragedy and comedy, this is a powerful tale – a must see for lovers of Beckett’s lyrical plays, and a great introduction for those new to his work.

Emily Govan