First night – July, 2010, Barcelona
Should we laugh or cry at the monstrous description that the protagonist of this piece makes of his first (and only) love? In this stage adaptation of Samuel Beckett's tragic-comic story, written in 1946, Pere Arquillué plays a tormented being, a man ejected from his home when his father dies, who perhaps fleetingly loved the prostitute who seduced him. However, if he ever lets love in for a moment, it is only to shake it off again immediately. Àlex Ollé and Miquel Górriz direct a play in which - as so often occurs in Beckett's works - what we hear makes us laugh whilst what we are not told fills us with... horror.
“Arquillué gives voice and acutely experiences the text of The First Love that Sanchez Sinisterra reworked back a few years ago. The actor fully plunges himself under the skin of this banal personality and when he is telling us about the cold, with his pale face he can perfectly pass for an Irishman like Samuel Beckett. Arquillué goes down to the bottommost depths of the character, savoring the text and gives us full opportunity to comprehend the double meaning of the tragic humor. He coughs slightly, moving his lips soundlessly, forever and ever doubtful. The twitching man in a seedy grey sweater and later striping off almost to underwear only to recline on a bench in the breathe-your-last attitude while some glowing object goes down on him like a smothering iron. It was an hour of a very good theatre
…we are gaining the opportunity to make new discoveries – the dazzling colors, the accents, the pauses are instrumental in bringing up some additional facets and distinctive traits of sarcasm of the character and further enhancing the explicit bitterness of the author’s text. Here we’ve also got a new demolisher of the moral principles – the stunning actor Pere Arquillué <…> Worth mentioning are two apparent characteristics of the character. Firstly it is his exceptionally intensive physical presence. All the movements performed by Arquillué, his manner of walking, sitting or moving his hands, the extraordinary elasticity of his physique – all this helps build up the thoroughly worked-out expressivity. In the meantime no associations are called up with either a phantom character or a mentally disturbed person.
Arquillué appears as a pioneer striving to understand the effects that a sudden comeback from the beyond can have upon us and to imbibe on the experiences of the predecessors who were inspired by the very idea of such a revisit.
The second distinctive feature is the absolute outward imperturbability, of the individual as he is expressing protest, imposing bans, making laying accusations of and saying spiteful words to his importunate concubine”.
The actor and directors by no means attempt to change the original message of Beckett’s play. All they do is placing stronger emphasis on the black humor that is measurably present in the text. This humour noir is effective first and foremost due to the character’s expressed detachedness and cold resentment of the earthly joys of the ‘distinguished society’.
What is fascinating about this production is not so much the anti-bourgeoisie ideological orientation, of which critics have been writing for over sixty years now, as the important lesson that is taught to us by the protagonist