Samuel Beckett by G.L.Duffy
Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989) is probably the most influential
playwright of the 20th century. An Irish Protestant born south of Dublin,
he spent much of his life in France. He wrote most of his major work in
the French language and translated them himself into English.
He is best known for his plays
He is probably the most famous of the writers associated with the movement
known as Theatre of the Absurd. He has been hugely influential on
playwrights of the latter half of the 20th Century such as ,
Beckett wrote novels, poetry and criticism as well as plays. There is
a list of his principal dramatic work in the of the Well Furlong .
See our page of
for a brief account of his life and works in chronological order.
at Reading University holds the most extensive
collection of Samuel Beckett materials in the world. The Beckett Archive,
is open to the public and to academic researchers.
All That Fall - First Stage Production Autumn 2012
Sir Trevor Nunn will produce the first staged production of All That Fall written for
radio in 1957 in London West End's smallest theatre the 70 seat Jermyn Street Theatre.
Dame Eileen Atkins and Sir Michael Gambon will star and the play will run from
9th October to 3rd November 2012.
Happy Days - Enniskillen International Beckett Festival is the first annual festival in the
world dedicated to Samuel Beckett. Enniskillen is in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
London 2012 Festival is co-commissioning a new production
of Krapp's Last Tape, directed and performed by Robert Wilson.
The festival will run from 23rd
to 27th August 2012.
|The production at London's Albery Theatre by
Matthew Warchus starred 'The Great Gambon' as Hamm and the
animated comedian Lee Evans as Clov. Gaynor and I saw a
very early preview on 27th
February 2004. Sir Michael Gambon never lets you down, and
this is a powerful commanding performance, but Lee Evans, a
comic performer I have only seen a couple of times on TV, and not
particularly liked, is a revelation. I expected him to
totally overdo the mannerisms of the man who cannot lie down
and who serves the blind man who cannot stand. For many minutes
after the curtain rises he painfully shuffles about the
stage with a step ladder opening the curtains of the windows
set high up in the back wall. Throughout the play he is
bullied by Hamm, and though frustrated tries to please.
As always Gambon convinces you that his
part was written for him alone. Hamm's parents, Nell played by Liz
Smith, a very talented TV stalwart, and Nagg, Geoffrey
Hutchings, another familiar TV performer, have lost their
legs in the never spelt out catastrophe which is bringing
the world to an end. They live in ash cans, and
pop up to be fed from time to time. It is a bleak work which
is not easy to watch, but you won't see a finer production
Not a Beckett work but a new
play by Michael Hastings in which the character Samuel Beckett appears as
the young secretary to James Joyce in Paris in the 1920's.
The play had been given universally hostile reviews when it
opened at the Duke of York's Theatre on 3rd March 2004. Gaynor and I
were nearly put off, but we were already booked for the
following Saturday matinee and do not regret the visit.
Michael Hastings' most famous play is Tom and Viv
the story of T S Eliot's marriage to a mentally disturbed
woman who may have been hugely influential to his work.
It was later filmed. On a similar theme Calico
concentrates on Joyce's mentally disturbed daughter Lucia,
who told Beckett at their first meeting that she could see
their future, and that they would be married. As she
becomes more disturbed, Beckett, played by Daniel Weyman, as
a gawky, taciturn but kind young university tutor, plays
along with her fantasy and even introduces a fantasy child
into the wholly spoken relationship.
The characters and their
relationships are all gripping, though Hastings does not
know how to bring the play to an end. So life is not
theatrical! But this is a play and it does stumble to an
unsatisfying, clumsy end.
So why did we enjoy it so much?
A combination of strong believable characters played by very
good actors. Dermot Crowley played Joyce perfectly as the
almost blind, self-deluding genius that he was. He
doesn't want to know that his beloved daughter walks the
streets of Paris each night looking for men. Imelda
Staunton, is magnificent as Joyce's common law wife Nora
Barnacle, trying to keep her family together.
Until I read about this play I had
never heard of a young actress called Romola Garai. She
has worked in TV and the movies, and was very soon to be seen
starring in Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2.
Here she plays Lucia, Joyce's (sometimes) demented daughter.
She is the central character of this play and she holds the
attention and the sympathy of the audience throughout. A
funny, convincing and moving performance. A twenty-one
year old star is born.
November 2003 Gaynor and I went to a preview of Beckett's
Happy Days at the Arts Theatre in London's West End. Sir
Peter Hall directed the play in the theatre in which he
directed the first British production of Beckett's
Waiting for Godot nearly four decades ago.
I have wept in the theatre only twice in my life. The first
time was during Claire Bloom's portrayal of Blanche Du Bois
in A Streetcar Named Desire
in the 70's. The second was at the end of this production.
The extreme emotional reaction was
aroused by a truly wonderful performance by Felicity Kendal
playing Winnie, the woman who is buried up to her waist for the
first act of Happy Days, and up to her neck in the
second half. It is the story of a woman making the best of a
terrible life. Unusually in this production, the design by
Lucy Hall puts Winnie at the centre of a spiral of sun
scorched grass set almost vertically rather than in a mound
of earth. The posters and programme show a glamorous
Kendal far removed from the tousle-haired Winnie we see on
stage, speaking in a light Irish accent. At times it seems
she is speaking verse, the rhythms of her virtual monologue
are so modulated. Anybody in a tedious job or at home
alone trying to get through the day will recognise the
rituals of breaking up the day with predictable, enjoyable
little events over which they have control. When will she
brush her hair? Not too early in the day, because then
she will have nothing to look forward to later.
I saw Peter Hall's production at the
National Theatre starring Peggy Ashcroft twice in the
seventies when I was in my twenties and loved it then. Now I am older I understand
what it is about and found it much less strange, much
funnier, and far, far sadder. Like most men I love
Felicity Kendal, but I have never seen her perform better,
and I should find it difficult to cite a better performance
by any actress, though within a week we saw Helen Mirren and
Eve Best in Eugene O'Neill's
Mourning Becomes Electra at the National, and they both
deserve to be in the same class. I feel privileged to
have seen such great performances in such great plays.
Boy, do I love theatre!
||A brief biography of Samuel Beckett
||A list of Beckett's dramatic works many of which you may buy from
The Reading University (Berkshire, UK)
houses the world's biggest collection of
Samuel Beckett resources. The include over
600 manuscripts, letters, books, art works,
stage files and news cuttings relating to