7 April 2014

Staging Beckett at the Margins

University of Chester, 11-12 September 2014
Samuel Beckett. Photograph: Reg Lancaster/Getty Images
Call for Papers – Staging Beckett at the Margins

Staging Beckett is a three year collaborative research project undertaken by the universities of Chester, Reading, and the Victoria & Albert Museum which started in September 2012, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project explores Beckett’s impact on British and Irish theatre practice and cultures while also looking at how Beckett has been staged internationally, and it is compiling a database of professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland.

Our second conference, to be held at the University of Chester, 11-12 September 2014, will focus on perceived notions of Beckett at the margins, on productions staged outside London and other major theatrical centres. What has the impact of Beckett’s drama been upon regional, small national, touring and marginal theatrical practices and cultures? What is at stake when staging Beckett in marginal cultures or lesser-known geographical areas? How does Beckett’s work move from a country’s capital city to its regions? Does Beckett’s work speak to national, or local, cultural contexts? How does it fit within established theatrical, cultural and economic infrastructures?

We are keen to hear from academics and practitioners interested in how Beckett has been, or might be, staged in areas beyond the major theatrical centres of London, Dublin, Paris, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, etc. Issues to consider might be, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Theatre and local politics
  • Cultural marginalisation
  • Small-scale productions
  • Amateur productions
  • Planned productions that failed to be realised
  • Festivals
  • Beckett in Scotland
  • Beckett in Wales
  • Beckett on tour, nationally and internationally
  • Beckett as a marginal author
  • Beckett and subaltern cultures
Please send proposals of c. 150 words to stagingbeckett@chester.ac.uk by 31 May 2014. [Read More]
2 April 2014

Samuel Beckett, Echo's Bones (30% Discount)

Published for the very first time by Faber & Faber
Samuel Beckett, Echo's Bones, ed. Mark Nixon
The dead die hard, they are trespassers on the beyond…

Eighty years after it was written, this enigmatic story by Samuel Beckett makes its first public appearance and is the first new Beckett text to be published in almost two decades.
‘I’m delighted that Belacqua Lazarus will be walking again shortly. Let me shake him by the hand as soon as you can buy a ticket for him.’

Charles Prentice at Chatto & Windus to Samuel Beckett, 4 October 1933
‘Dear Sam, It is a nightmare ... ‘Echo’s Bones’ would, I am sure, lose the book a great many readers.’

Charles Prentice to Samuel Beckett, 13 November 1933
‘Echo’s Bones’ was intended by Samuel Beckett to form the ‘recessional’ or end-piece of his early collection of interrelated stories, More Pricks Than Kicks, published in 1934 by Chatto & Windus. The story was written at the request of the publisher, but was held back from inclusion in the published volume and so has remained unpublished to this day.

Introduced and fully annotated by editor Mark Nixon, this edition will situate the work in terms of its biographical context, its intertextual references, and as a vital link in the evolution of Beckett’s early work.

Mark Nixon is Reader in Modern Literature at the University of Reading, where he is also Director of the Beckett International Foundation. With Dirk Van Hulle, he is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies and Co-Director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project. He is also an editor of Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’hui and the current President of the Samuel Beckett Society. He has published widely on Beckett’s work; recent books include the monograph Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936-37 (Continuum, 2011), the edited collection Publishing Samuel Beckett (British Library, 2011) and Samuel Beckett’s Library, written with Dirk Van Hulle (Cambridge UP, 2013).

Receive 30% off the book at faber.co.uk. Simply enter the code echosbones when placing your order. Offer ends 01/09/2014.
27 March 2014

Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories

University of Reading · Inaugural Conference, 4-5 April 2014
4-5 April 2014, Minghella Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights Campus.

Staging Beckett's Inaugural Conference on 4th - 5th April 2014 will focus on the history, documentation and analysis of Beckett's theatre in performance in the UK, Ireland and internationally.

Staging Beckett: The Impact of Productions of Samuel Beckett's Plays in the UK and Ireland is an AHRC-funded project which runs from 2012-2015. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Reading and Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The project is compiling a database of all professional productions of Beckett's plays in the UK and Ireland, with accompanying research resources. The project's conferences are: Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories (Reading April 4-5, 2014), Staging Beckett in the Regions (Chester, 11-12 September, 2014), and Samuel Beckett and Contemporary Theatre Cultures (Reading, April 2015).

Staging Beckett blog: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/staging-beckett/

Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories features papers on productions of Beckett from across the globe, including Belgium, Brazil, Hungary, India, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, the United States and the UK. Topics will cover Beckett and stage design, Beckett's theatrical intersections with Pinter and with Shakespeare, staging Beckett in situations of censorship, or crisis and resistance from besieged Sarajevo to the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park New York, staging Beckett beyond the theatrical frame, and performance histories and perspectives.

Registration fee: £50 per day waged; £30 per day students, seniors and unwaged.

Keynote Lecture: 'Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance', Professor Brian Singleton, Trinity College Dublin, Friday 4th April, 2.30pm

Practitioners' Panel: 'Staging Beckett Now': Saturday 5th April, 3pm.
  • Natalie Abrahami (director of Happy Days, starring Juliet Stevenson at the Young Vic, London, Feb-March 2014)
  • Lisa Dwan (recent performances of Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby at the Royal Court and Duchess Theatre, London, on tour during 2014)
  • Sarah Jane Scaife (director of site specific performances of Act Without Words II and Rough for Theatre 1 in Dublin (2013), Limerick, London and New York).
The Staging Beckett Research Team: Matthew McFrederick (Reading), Anna McMullan (Reading), Patricia McTighe (Reading), David Pattie (Chester), Graham Saunders (Reading), David Tucker (Chester).

Provisional Schedule

Friday April 4th

9.00-10.15 Tea / Coffee and Registration

10.15-10.30 Welcome (Professor James Knowlson) and Introduction

10.30-12.00 Panel 1: Historical Intersections
  • Raquel Merino Alvarez 'Staging Beckett on Spanish censored stages: 1955-1976'
  • Paulo Henrique Da Silva Gregorio 'Beckett and the Shakespeare Revolution in the 1960s'
  • David Tucker 'That first last look in the shadows': Using Performance Histories of Beckett and Pinter'
12.00-12.15 Tea / Coffee

12.15 - 1.45 Panel 2: Staging Beckett Globally 1
  • Priyanka Chatterjee 'Staging Beckett in Bengal: Revisiting History and Art'
  • Burç Dincel '"TheyTo Play": A Turkish Take On Beckett'
  • Brendan McCall and E. K. McFall, 'Staging Krapp's Last Tape in Turkey, Western Australia and Norway'
1.45 - 2.30 Lunch (served in the Minghella Foyer)

2.30 - 3.30 Keynote Lecture, Professor Brian Singleton, 'Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance'

3.30 - 4.00 Tea / coffee

4.00-5.30 Panel 3: Beyond the Theatrical Frame
  • Luz María Sánchez Cardona, 'Beckett, the electronic medium of radio, and Krapp's Last Tape'
  • Brenda Farrell, 'Culture Shock: (Re) Staging Beckett in caves and car parks'
  • Lisa FitzGerald 'Coming out of the Dark: Performing Place in Pan Pan's Production of Beckett's All that Fall'
5.30 -7.00 Book launch and wine reception (served in the Minghella) 
  • Patricia McTighe, The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett's Drama, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
  • David Tucker, A Dream and its Legacies: The Samuel Beckett Theatre Project, Oxford c. 1967-76, Oxford: Colin Smythe, 2013.
8pm Dinner: Pepe Sale, 3, Queen's Walk, Reading city centre (£27.50pp): http://www.pepesale.co.uk

Saturday April 5th

8.30-9.00 Tea / Coffee and day registration

9.00-10.30 Panel 4: Staging Beckett Globally 2
  • Robson Corrêa de Camargo 'Playing Beckett in Brazil'
  • Anita Rákóczy 'Godots That Arrived: Waiting for Godot In Budapest Before and After 1989'.
  • Ewa Brzeska 'Violating Becketts' Prescriptions For Theatre in Poland'
10.30-10.45: Tea / Coffee

10.45-12.15: Panel 5 Staging Beckett and Survival / Resistance
  • Thomas Saunders 'Ownership and orphaned Irish identity in Susan Sontag's staging of Waiting for Godot'
  • Arthur Rose 'Developing Beckett in New Orleans'
  • Lance Duerfahrd 'An Unprotesting Play within a Protest: Waiting for Godot in Zuccotti Park'
12.15-12.30 Tea / Coffee

12.30-2.00 Panel 6: Designing Beckett
  • Sophie Jump, 'Physicalising the Text: Jocelyn Herbert and Samuel Beckett'
  • Anna McMullan 'Beckett and Irish Scenography'
  • Trish McTighe 'The Tree at the Gate: Beckett and Le Brocquy'
2.00-3.00: Lunch (served in the Minghella Foyer)

3.00-4.15 Practitioner Panel: Staging Beckett Now
  • Natalie Abrahami (director of Happy Days, starring Juliet Stevenson at the Young Vic, London, Feb-March 2014)
  • Lisa Dwan (recent performances of Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby at the Royal Court and Duchess Theatre, London, on tour during 2014)
  • Sarah Jane Scaife (director of site specific performances of Act Without Words II and Rough for Theatre 1 in Dublin (2013), Limerick, London and New York)
4.15-4.30 Tea / Coffee

4.30-6.00 Panel 7: Performance Histories and Perspectives
  • Kate Dorney, 'Beckett in the Frame: a visual history of productions documented at the Victoria & Albert Museum'
  • Matthew McFrederick 'Staging Beckett at the Royal Court Theatre'
  • Nicholas Johnson and Jonathan Heron 'The Performance Issue'
6-7pm Launch of Journal Of Beckett Studies special issue on Performance, and closing of conference.
23 February 2014

Stanley E Gontarski: Working with Beckett

3 March 2014 · Trinity College Dublin
Professor Stanley E. Gontarski
Working with Beckett
3 March 2014
Trinity College Dublin

A lecture by Prof Stanley E Gontarski (Florida State University), organised by the Trinity College Library, the School of English and the School of Drama, Film and Music, TCD.

Professor Stanley E Gontarski, whose letters, papers and books relating to Samuel Beckett have been acquired recently by Trinity College Library Dublin, will discuss his working relationship with the playwright.

This began on 30 March 1973, when Beckett wrote to draw Gontarski’s attention to the director’s notebook that he kept for Glückliche Tage, the Happy Days production he directed in German in 1971 at the Werkstatt of Berlin’s famed Schiller-Theater. In May 1980, Gontarski, invited to watch Beckett direct in London, persuaded him to write a new play expressly for a conference he was organizing the following year at The Ohio State University to celebrate Beckett’s 75th year. This became first ‘The Ohio project’ and then Ohio Impromptu, the only work in Beckett’s oeuvre with a geographical reference. During extended stays in Paris in 1985-86, Gontarski worked on theatrical productions with Beckett, particularly an adaptation of Beckett’s novella, Company, and a re-adaptation of what would become Beckett’s final completed work for theatre, What Where.

Gontarski directed the English-language premieres of these works: Company in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre in 1985, and What Where, part of an evening called ‘The Beckett Vision’, at San Francisco’s Magic Theater in 1986, the latter filmed by Global Village in 1987 as part of a DVD collection, ‘Peephole Art: Beckett for Television’ and released commercially in 1995. The production became a central part of the documentary Waiting for Beckett, a YouTube clip of which features Beckett’s discussing this production. Film versions of both productions were shown in Dublin in 1991 during the Dublin Theatre Festival. Finally, Gontarski worked closely with Beckett while editing The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett: Endgame; during this process, Beckett made final revisions to the play, not long before he passed away.

To register for this event, please contact mscripts@tcd.ie

Location: Monday 3 March 2014 at 18:30, Trinity Long Room Hub [Read More]

Samuel Beckett: Roughs

25 February - 1 March 2014 · Secret Location, Cambridge

by Samuel Beckett
11pm, Tuesday 25 February – Saturday 1 March
At a Secret Central Cambridge Location:
Visit www.adcticketing.com for details.

Produced by Cambridge University’s Heywood Society, with the support of the Lady Margaret Players. Direct event link: http://www.adcticketing.com/whats-on/drama/roughs.aspx

The Production:

‘Roughs’ is an immersive staged reading of Samuel Beckett’s Roughs for Radio 1 & 2, taking place in Cambridge later this month. After extensive research, the Heywood Society can say that this is the first time these plays have been staged in Britain.

About Beckett's Radio Plays

Samuel Beckett is best known for his stage plays (Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days) and his novels (Murphy, Malone Dies), but he was also fascinated by radio. Between 1956 and 1963, Beckett wrote seven radio plays (six original scripts, and an Irish-flavoured reimagining of Robert Pinget’s play, La Manivelle). In his words, these are plays written “to come out of the dark.”

Beckett’s radio plays are not comfortable listening. Following the broadcast of Beckett’s first radio play, All That Fall, a BBC audience survey described how this “effective, if rather frightening” play confused and unsettled the listeners.

Most people have never heard a Beckett radio play. Beckett was adamant that his radio plays were only for radio, and refused to have them staged. After the success of All That Fall, he famously wrote to his publisher:

All That Fall is a specifically radio play, or rather radio text, for voices, not bodies. I have already refused to have it ‘staged’ and I cannot think of it in such terms... It is no more theatre than End-Game [sic.] is radio and to ‘act’ it is to kill it. Even the reduced visual dimension it will receive from the simplest and most static of readings... will be destructive of whatever quality it may have and which depends on the whole thing’s coming out of the dark.”

Beckett maintained these views fiercely. As a result, the Beckett Estate normally refuses to allow stagings of Beckett’s radio plays, and only very rarely makes an exception to this rule.

One high-profile exception took place in 2012, when Sir Trevor Nunn directed Sir Michael Gambon and Dame Eileen Atkins in a sell-out West End production of All That Fall – the first ever UK staging of this play. To avoid ‘killing’ Beckett’s radio-text, Nunn built a 1950s-style radio studio onstage. The actors read from scripts into radio microphones, while sound-effects were created around them. More recently, Irish theatre company Pan Pan took productions of Embers and All That Fall to the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival, in which the actors were hidden from the audience. Any director who plans to direct a live performance of the radio plays must find a similarly cunning solution.

About Roughs For Radio I & II

To many critics, the radio plays are the quintessential Beckett. As his career progressed, Beckett’s writing became more intimate and experimental, filled with internal monologues and unseen ghostly voices. Several of these later plays have been nicknamed ‘skullscapes’ by critics. Rough for Radio I & II are two of his finest works in this style.

Rough for Radio I is an adventurous and experimental sketch – an ‘experience’, rather than a conventional drama. This dreamlike, abstract play weaves together music, words and unsettling sound effects as it builds towards a tense climax. In the upcoming Cambridge production, Rough for Radio I will be set to an original score by Jeff Carpenter.

Rough for Radio I is the only Beckett radio play never to be produced by the BBC. Beckett wrote this haunting sketch in French in 1961. He left it untouched for years before translating it into English, and publishing it in Stereo Headphones magazine in 1976 as ‘Sketch for Radio Play’. As it never received a BBC production, few people have had the chance to hear the play. A production was broadcast on Irish radio-station RTE for Beckett’s centenary in 2006, and has been recorded live in America, but the play has never been produced in Britain.

Despite exhaustive research, The Heywood Society have been unable to find any records of a theatrical staging of Rough for Radio, making this staged rehearsed reading a world first.

Rough for Radio II is more plot-driven than Rough for Radio I. It is a darkly comic nightmare, laced with poetic imagery and grim innuendo. Two shadowy figures – self-indulgent Animator (Sam Clayton) and pedantic Stenographer (Ally Cussons) – torture and interrogate Fox (Ben Hawkins), an enigmatic subhuman creature cursed with the gift of language.

This is the first time Rough for Radio II has been staged in the UK, and only the second production of it to be staged in Europe.

About the Production Companies

The Heywood Society is the theatrical society of Cambridge's oldest college, Peterhouse. Named after the seventeenth-century dramatist and Petrean, Thomas Heywood. The Society is run by a committee of College members. The society has produced shows at the ADC Theatre and Corpus Playroom as well as Peterhouse. In 2012 the society took a touring production of T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party to France. Roughs is a Heywood Society production.

The Lady Margaret Players is the theatrical society of St John’s College, Cambridge. They traditionally stage productions in the 800-year-old School of Pythagoras, but more recently have staged plays at a wider range of venues. The Lady Margaret Players have lent their support to Roughs.

The Music of Rough for Radio I

In Beckett’s plays, music can be a character. In Words and Music an entire symphony orchestra plays the role of a slave called Bob. Given this, it’s unsurprising that the music of Rough for Radio I has a personality. On one level, it is only the noise of a radio. On another level, it’s a living, organic creature. To capture this ‘living’ quality, the show’s musicians are encouraged to improvise around the score every night.

For its Cambridge run, Rough for Radio I will be set to original music by Jeff Carpenter. A recent Cambridge graduate and a virtuoso composer, Carpenter was involved in 28 productions at Cambridge; amongst other projects, he produced an updated version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, composed music for the Footlights Pantomime and Footlights Spring Review, and wrote several critically acclaimed original musicals. Jeff Carpenter’s Bereavement: The Musical was nominated for Best New Musical and Best New Lyrics in the 2012 Musical Theatre Matters Awards

Beckett’s script is a challenge. He provides no music, and offers only laconic stage-directions for the eleven snatches of sound produced by ‘Music’ and ‘Voice’ (eg. “Faint... brief... breaking off and resuming together”). Jeff Carpenter has taken this challenge full-on, producing an original score that follows Beckett’s directions to the letter. Throughout Rough for Radio I, Music and Voice slowly shudder towards death, only coming together for their “last gasps.”

For this production, the words that Voice sings have been taken from Fox’s speeches in Rough for Radio II. Voice and Fox are similar characters; they are both suffering creatures, who are coaxed into speech only with difficulty. Both represent aspects of the creative process, and the difficulty of summoning something out of nothing. In producing the score, Jeff Carpenter was aided by Rosie Hayes, a Cambridge graduate and classically-trained musician who has produced academic research on music in Beckett’s writing.

Director's Notes (Tristram Fane Saunders):

“It’s amazing that this hasn’t happened already. I spoke to the Beckett Estate’s representative at Curtis Brown, and although they couldn’t confirm the full performance history for both of these plays, they couldn’t find any records of any previous UK stagings.”

“I wanted people to experience these strange, beautiful plays in their intended medium – sound. I read Beckett’s comments about how any sight would be too much, and took them to heart. A conventional production would “kill” these plays – if you can see Fox in Rough II, or put a face to the voice in Rough I, something would be lost. “So the solution we came up with is unusual, but perfectly in keeping with Beckett’s wishes: the audience are all blindfolded. They arrive at a designated meeting point, then are led by the stage-crew to the door of the venue. Outside the door, they are blindfolded and led inside. They will hear music and voices coming out the darkness around them, but see nothing. It’s going to be unique.

“The rehearsal process has been intense. This is a rehearsed reading, not a stage-play, and the actors will all have scripts on the night, but they know the plays so well that scripts are hardly necessary.

“One of our actors, Luke Sumner, is also very active in the Cambridge Footlights, and has been struggling to juggle rehearsals. But I’m lucky to be working with a fantastically talented cast, who are all dedicated to the show. We’re playing to an audience who almost certainly haven’t heard these plays, and may never hear them again, so it’s vital that we get it right.

“Radio and theatre are both huge parts of my life, so it’s fantastic to be able to combine them in this way. I work as a freelance radio critic for Radio Times, and I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on how Tom Stoppard’s radio plays have been influenced by Beckett. I’ve acted in Cambridge before (I’ve played Richard in Richard III, Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus and Valentine in Arcadia), but this is my first time directing. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.” [Read More]
17 February 2014

Samuel Beckett and the Archive: Rewriting the Beckett Canon

Call for submissions to a Palgrave Macmillan collection of essays
New Interpretations of Beckett in the Twenty-First Century
From Endpage (thanks to Pim Verhulst for the link):

Samuel Beckett and the Archive: Rewriting the Beckett Canon

(Part of the 'New Interpretations of Beckett in the Twenty-First Century' series)
Edited by Jennifer M. Jeffers

As the leading literary figure to emerge from post-World War II Europe, Samuel Beckett's texts and his literary and intellectual legacy have yet to be fully appreciated by critics and scholars. The goal of New Interpretations of Beckett in the Twenty-First Century is to stimulate new approaches and develop fresh perspectives on Beckett, his texts, and his legacy. The series will provide a forum for original and interdisciplinary interpretations concerning any aspect of Beckett's work or his influence upon subsequent writers, artists, and thinkers.

Jennifer M. Jeffers is a Professor of English at Cleveland State University. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of The Irish Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: Gender, Bodies, and Power; Britain Colonized: Hollywood's Appropriation of British Literature; Uncharted Space: The End of Narrative, the editor of Samuel Beckett, and co-editor of Contextualizing Aesthetics: From Plato to Lyotard.

Call for Papers

Call for contributors to the proposed edited collection 'Samuel Beckett and the Archive: Rewriting the Beckett Canon':

This collection will explore the impact of the availability of Beckett archival materials in the last generation of Beckett scholarship. Will archival research permanently alter what we now consider Beckett's "canonical," or most important texts? Please submit 500 word abstracts for papers that address the short-term and long-term impact of archival scholarship on the reading and production of Beckett's texts.

Deadline for Submissions: 30 July 2014


Brigitte Shull, Editor:

Jennifer M. Jeffers:
16 February 2014

Beckett Digital Manuscript Project: L'Innommable / The Unnamable

New digital instalment places pioneering work of fiction under the magnifying glass
The Making of Samuel Beckett's L'Innomable / The Unnamable (BDMP2).
The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (www.beckettarchive.org) is pleased to announce the publication of the genetic edition of L'Innommable / The Unnamable, edited by Dirk Van Hulle and Shane Weller; technical realization: Vincent Neyt.

This new module reunites all the relevant manuscripts held at three different holding libraries: the Harry Ransom Center (Austin, Texas), the University of Reading and Washington University, St Louis. The genetic edition offers:
  • 950 digital facsimiles and their transcriptions;
  • all pre-publication versions of the text: the French manuscript, a partial manuscript in French, the manuscript of the English version and two English typescripts;
  • facsimiles of 350 doodles with description;
  • a search engine;
  • digital collation tools to compare the different versions at sentence level.
The accompanying print volume, The Making of Samuel Beckett's L'Innommable / The Unnamable, will appear shortly, containing a bibliographic description of the manuscripts and an analysis of the work's genesis.

Forthcoming modules of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project:
  • Krapp's Last Tape / La dernière bande
  • Beckett's Radio Plays
  • Molloy Malone meurt / Malone Dies
  • Watt
For more information on the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (BDMP), see www.beckettarchive.org.

To subscribe to the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, see the ASP/University Press Antwerp website for: Individual accessInstitutional access.
13 February 2014

Samuel Beckett Summer School 2014

Trinity College Dublin · 10-16 August 2014
Design: Rhys Tranter
The 2014 Samuel Beckett Summer School runs from 10–16 August 2014. Applications now available from our website.

Preliminary list of speakers:
  • Elizabeth Barry
  • Gerald Dawe
  • Lois More Overbeck
  • Laura Salisbury
  • Anthony Uhlmann
  • Dirk Van Hulle
  • A Roundtable discussion, ‘Beckett beyond the Humanities’, chaired by Jonathan Heron
  • Samuel Beckett’s Letters (Lois More Overbeck)
  • Beckett and Brain Science (Elizabeth Barry & Laura Salisbury)
  • Beckett’s Manuscripts (Mark Nixon & Dirk Van Hulle)
  • Performance Workshop/Samuel Beckett Laboratory (Jonathan Heron & Nick Johnson)
  • Reading Group (Sam Slote)
Full list of speakers, provisional schedule, and details of performances will be posted on our website shortly at http://beckettsummerschool.wordpress.com
11 February 2014

Praise for Lisa Dwan's Samuel Beckett Trilogy

Still time to catch Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby in London's West End

The Telegraph

Lisa Dwan performs in Becket's late plays. Photo: Alastair Muir
From Charles Spencer (The Telegraph):
When I was younger, I intensely disliked Samuel Beckett. I found his gloom oppressive and the ambiguity of his writing frustrating.

These days however I hang on to his every word, for there is no better guide to the human spirit’s darker depths and never more so than in this extraordinary triple bill of late works. Taken together, they last only an hour but the experience is profound and deeply moving.

In all three Beckett transports the audience to a strange and mysterious world apparently located at the very brink of death – that “undiscovered country” that Beckett and his characters so often yearn for.

But the evening is far from depressing. There is great beauty in the writing and a determination to stare mortality in the face. All three plays were originally performed by that great actress Billie Whitelaw, who was something of a muse to Beckett, but Lisa Dwan makes the pieces entirely her own with a rapt concentration that holds the audience throughout. [Read More]


Lisa Dwan readies herself for another demanding performance of Not I. Photo: Finn Beales
From Metro:
First comes the tar-like make-up, covering the face and neck. Over that goes a blindfold, then a clinging layer of opaque black fabric. The woman climbs a flight of stairs that will position her 8ft above the floor.

Her arms are placed in restraints that hold her body, cruciform, against a board, her head tightly strapped into an aperture. Only her lips, pink and moist in the darkness, are visible.

All that remains is for her to perform a theatrical feat that will last less than nine minutes but was described by Billie Whitelaw, who gave it its British premiere at the Royal Court in 1973, as ‘falling backwards into hell’.

‘I hope it doesn’t feel like a public execution,’ laughs Lisa Dwan.

But anyone who’s caught her performance as Mouth in Samuel Beckett’s brilliant and demanding Not I – which Dwan has been delivering off and on since 2005, notably in last year’s 40th anniversary shows at the Royal Court – can testify to its shattering power.

Alone on stage, the actor performs a breakneck stream-of-consciousness monologue evoking a lifetime of despair, vomited from their mouth spotlit in a dark void. Not surprisingly, it is held to be the most demanding of parts.

For all that, Dwan is returning to it at the Court, performing it alongside two other Beckett shorts, Footfalls and Rockaby, prior to a regional and international tour. [Read More]

The Independent

Lisa Dwan as Mouth in Samuel Beckett's Not I. Photo: Finn Beals
From Paul Taylor (The Independent):
Lisa Dwan delivers a virtuosic performance of three of Beckett's short later works in an extraordinary hour-long experience that feels more like a group hallucination or a troubling collective dream than a theatrical event.

The pieces emerge from and lapse back into a rumbling absolute darkness so dense it's like fur and it's a tribute to the memerising power of Walter Asmus's production that there wasn't a single flicker from a mobile phone or a whispered exchange throughout the proceedings on press night.

The evening kicks off with Not I, the most familiar of the plays, first performed in this theatre forty years ago by Billie Whitelaw. Eight feet in the air, a disembodied female mouth materialises, spotlit in the pitch-black, and spews a fractured steam-of-consciousness monologue in a demented torrent. It's a stage picture that still astonishes – imagine the Cheshire Cat's grin as reinvented by Munch.

Beckett wanted the piece to “work on the nerves of its audience, not its intellect” and stipulated that it should be emitted at “the speed of thought”. Dwan's 9 minute performance is the quickest on record. The woman's plight is grotesquely tragicomic: having spent most of her isolated, loveless life mute, she now finds herself the victim of relentless verbal diarrhoea. Listening to Dwan's unbelievably breakneck, manic Irish-accented gabble is like watching a non-driver trapped at the wheel in a hurtling vehicle with no brakes. The actress, though, is in prodigious control of the material. The woman's recurring denial that she is the subject of her third-person narrative – “what?...who?...no!...she!” escalates, to just right degree here, in desperate, teeth-baring insistence. [Read More]

Lisa Dwan talks to The Guardian

Lisa Dwan's dressing room. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for The Guardian
Lisa Dwan talks to The Guardian about her dressing room, and how she prepares for her performances:
My dressing room is a bit of a sanctuary. It's where I take my anxieties, my sleep and my prayers. It's a kitchen, a dining room and a meeting place. Everything happens there.

Not I is only nine minutes long but it requires a lot of preparation every time. I arrive at the theatre about three and a half hours early and before every show, I'll do a line-run or two, a vocal warm-up, at least half an hour of meditation and then eat early enough to digest my food. The last thing you need is a burp building up!

It took ages to find the right black makeup, because it can't be light reflective. I use a matt grease eyeliner and a thick, grease eyeshadow. On top of that I wear a black eyemask and a pair of tights over my head, then I'm harnessed into a head brace. My neck goes all the time and I've got a hernia from doing this show. I'm a dancer, so I'm used to pushing my body through pain thresholds. I've been on a mission not to be ill. Hence all the over-the-counter meds. It's not like I've got an understudy. [Read More]

Walter Asmus talks to The Economist

Walter Asmus directs Lisa Dwan during rehearsals. Photo: John Haynes.
Director (and friend of Beckett's) Walter Asmus talks to The Economist about working with Lisa Dwan on the late plays:
A 73-year-old German living in Berlin, Mr Asmus was told last year about an astonishing nine-minute version of Beckett's "Not I" performed by an Irish actress, Lisa Dwan. (Its most famous performer, Billie Whitelaw, used to do it in 14 minutes.) Ms Dwan has been delivering "Not I", in which memories of childhood and other strangled thoughts are spat out by ghoulishly lit lips in otherwise complete darkness, since 2005. But she had hopes of doing a fuller Beckett programme, and after she had met Mr Asmus, the Royal Court asked him to direct her in two other “dramaticules”, as the playwright called his shorter late pieces, to be put on with "Not I".

So audiences at the Royal Court also got to see "Footfalls", in which Ms Dwan plays May, pacing up and down in dialogue with her mother, and "Rockaby", in which another spectral woman in a rocking chair listens to the musings of perhaps her own ghost. All three plays are being revived from February 3rd for 14 performances at the Duchess Theatre. [Read More]
The sold out show is playing at the Duchess Theatre in the West End for a limited run, 3-15 February 2014.
7 February 2014

Beckett and Animals

A new collection of essays edited by Mary Bryden
Beckett and Animals, ed. Mary Bryden
Beckett and Animals
Edited by Mary Bryden
University of Reading

20% discount if ordered before 28 February 2014
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The animals that appear in Samuel Beckett's work are diverse and unpredictable. They serve as victim and persecutor, companion and adversary, disconcerting observers and objects oblivious to the human gaze. Bringing together an international array of Beckett specialists, this is the first full-length study to explore the significance of the animals that populate Beckett's prose, drama and poetry. Essays theorise a broad spectrum of animal manifestations while focusing on the roles that distinct animal forms play within Beckett's work, including horses, sheep, cats, dogs, bees, insects and others. Contributors situate close readings within a larger literary and cultural context, drawing on thinkers ranging from Aristotle to Deleuze, Foucault and Agamben, and on authors such as Flaubert, Kafka and Coetzee. The result is an incisive and provocative collection that traverses disciplinary boundaries, revealing how Beckett's creatures challenge conventional notions of species identity and, ultimately, what it means to be human.

Hardback £55.00 Discount price £44.00


List of Contributors; Acknowledgements; List of Abbreviations
Introduction, by Mary Bryden

Part I: Animality

1. Shane Weller, ‘Forms of Weakness: Animalisation in Kafka and Beckett’;
2. Yoshiki Tajiri, ‘Beckett, Coetzee, and Animals’;
3. Mary Bryden, ‘The Beckettian Bestiary’;
4. David Wheatley, ‘”Quite Exceptionally Anthropoid”: Species Anxiety and Metamorphosis in Beckett's Humans and Other Animals’;
5. Naoya Mori, ‘”An Animal Inside”: Beckett/Leibniz’s Stone, Animal, Human and the Unborn’;
6. Ulrika Maude, ‘Pavlov's Dogs and Other Animals in Samuel Beckett’;
7. Yoshiyuki Inoue, ‘Little Animals in the Brain: Beckett's “porteurs de la mémoire”’.

Part II: The Specificity of Animals

8. Jean-Michel Rabaté, ‘”Think, Pig!”: Beckett's Animal Philosophies’;
9. Linda Ben-Zvi, ‘Beckett's “Necessary” Cat(s)’;
10. Steven Connor, ‘Making Flies Mean Something’;
11. Joseph Anderton, ‘”Hooves!”: The Equine Presence in Beckett’;
12. Angela Moorjani, ‘The Dancing Bees in Samuel Beckett's Molloy: The Rapture of Unknowing’;
13. Chris Ackerley, ‘”Despised for Their Obviousness”: Samuel Beckett's Dogs’;
14. Julie Campbell, ‘Beckett and Sheep’;
15. Maximilian de Gaynesford, ‘”Eyes in Each Other's Eyes”: Beckett, Kleist, and the Fencing Bear’;
16. Brigitte Le Juez, ‘Words Without Acts: Beckett's Parrots’.