by Lyn Gardner, 8th June 2015

Samuel Beckett’s brief 1969 prose poem, known as the more elegant Sans in its original French, is staged with a haunting simplicity as part of the Barbican’s International Beckett season. The performer, Olwen Fouéré, an actor who would be compelling if she sat doing absolutely nothing at all, previously attempted this piece – never intended to be staged – at the National Theatre over a decade ago. But this pared-down version is very different.

Fouéré simply sits at a table, an anglepoise lamp providing illumination, speaking the text while behind her a screen – suggesting something charred around the edges – flickers as ash-grey as the landscape evoked by Beckett.

His is a ruined world where a figure stands petrified like a living sandstone or rock. Fouéré both skewers us with her gaze and seems to be looking into her own soul. The effect is of something both external and also entirely internal, without and within.

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