Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland 9781474240550, 9781474240581, 9781474240574

This is the first full-length study to focus on the staging of Samuel Beckett’s drama in Ireland and Northern Ireland. B

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Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland
 9781474240550, 9781474240581, 9781474240574

Table of contents :
Half title
Related titles from Bloomsbury Methuen Drama
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors
Foreword: Christopher Murray
Introduction: Trish McTighe
Part 1: Theatre Histories
1 Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990: Broadening the Canon Anthony Roche
2 Practice in Focus: ‘That’s how it was and them were the days’ Barry McGovern
3 The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals: Tensions between the Local and the Global David Clare
4 Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion – the Adaptability and Durability of Beckett in Belfast David Grant
5 Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Focus Theatre Siobhán O’Gorman
Part 2: Cultural Contexts
6 ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’: Destitution in Waiting for Godot in Relation to the Irish Performance Tradition Paul Murphy
7 Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains Anna McMullan
8 ‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish Feargal Whelan
9 The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot Trish McTighe
Part 3: Expanding the Frame
10 Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City Sarah Jane Scaife
11 Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance Brian Singleton
12 ‘The Neatness of Identifications’: Transgressing Beckett’s Genres in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2000–2015 Nicholas E. Johnson

Citation preview

Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Related titles from Bloomsbury Methuen Drama: Beckett’s Creatures: Art of Failure after the Holocaust by Joseph Anderton IBSN 978-1-4742-3453-5 The Plays of Samuel Beckett by Katherine Weiss ISBN 978-1-4081-5730-5 Staging Beckett in Great Britain by David Tucker and Trish McTighe ISBN 978-1-4742-4017-8 Ten Ways of Thinking About Samuel Beckett: The Falsetto of Reason by Enoch Brater ISBN 978-1-4081-3722-2

Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland Edited by Trish McTighe and David Tucker

Bloomsbury Methuen Drama An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Bloomsbury Methuen Drama An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA BLOOMSBURY, METHUEN DRAMA and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 © Trish McTighe, David Tucker and contributors 2016 Trish McTighe, David Tucker and contributors have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-1-4742-4055-0 ePDF: 978-1-4742-4057-4 ePub: 978-1-4742-4056-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Cover design by Eleanor Rose Cover photograph: Samuel Beckett in rehearsals of Waiting for Godot, Riverside Studios, London, February, 1984, by Chris Harris © David Gothard Theatre and Performance Collection. Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN

Contents List of Illustrations Notes on Contributors Acknowledgements Foreword  Christopher Murray Introduction  Trish McTighe

vii viii xiv xv xxiii

Part 1  Theatre Histories 1 2 3 4 5

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990: Broadening the Canon  Anthony Roche


Practice in Focus: ‘That’s how it was and them were the days’  Barry McGovern


The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals: Tensions between the Local and the Global  David Clare


Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion – the Adaptability and Durability of Beckett in Belfast  David Grant


Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Focus Theatre  Siobhán O’Gorman


Part 2  Cultural Contexts 6

7 8

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’: Destitution in Waiting for Godot in Relation to the Irish Performance Tradition  Paul Murphy Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains  Anna McMullan



‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish  Feargal Whelan 121

vi Contents


The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot  Trish McTighe


Part 3  Expanding the Frame 10 Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City  Sarah Jane Scaife


11 Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance Brian Singleton


12 ‘The Neatness of Identifications’: Transgressing Beckett’s Genres in Ireland and Northern Ireland, 2000–2015  Nicholas E. Johnson


Notes203 Bibliography221 Index237

List of Illustrations Figure 1: Mannix Flynn as Lucky in Oscar Productions’ Waiting for Godot, 1985. Courtesy of Peter Sheridan/Oscar Productions73 Figure 2: Raymond Keane in Act Without Words II, Dublin 2013. Photo by Hazel Coonagh, courtesy of S. J. Scaife166 Figure 3: Barry McGovern performing Watt, Gate Theatre, 2010. Courtesy of Anthony Woods/The Gate Theatre, Dublin190 Figure 4: The skull for Embers, sculpted by Andrew Clancy, Samuel Beckett Theatre, 2013. Courtesy of Ros Kavanagh/Pan Pan Theatre Company194

Notes on Contributors David Clare is an Irish Research Council-funded post-doctoral research fellow based in the Moore Institute at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His monograph, entitled Bernard Shaw’s Irish Outlook, was published in 2015, and his journal articles have appeared in the Irish Studies Review, the New Hibernia Review, the Irish University Review, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, and Emerging Perspectives. David Grant has enjoyed a varied career in theatre throughout Ireland as director, critic and teacher. He has been Managing Editor of Theatre Ireland magazine, Programme Director of the Dublin Theatre Festival and Artistic Director of the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and has directed more than a hundred theatre productions ranging from Shakespeare to new and devised work. He has published widely on Irish theatre and applied drama. He currently lectures in drama at Queen’s University Belfast. Nicholas E. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Drama at Trinity College Dublin, as well as a performer, director and writer. He has contributed articles to Theatre Research International, Forum Modernes Theater, the Journal of Art Historiography, the Journal of Beckett Studies, and a number of edited collections, including the Bloomsbury Methuen Drama Critical Companion to The Plays of Samuel Beckett (2013), and Ireland and Performing the Historical Imagination (2014). With Jonathan Heron, he co-edited the special issue on performance for the Journal of Beckett Studies (23 (1), 2014) and co-founded the Samuel Beckett Laboratory. Recent theatrical projects include the first performance of Wyndham Lewis’s 1914 version of Enemy of the Stars (director), The Machinewreckers after Ernst Toller (translator/director), The Brothers Karamazov (adaptor/director/performer), and Ethica: Four Shorts by Samuel Beckett (director) at Áras an Uactharáin and the Enniskillen Beckett Festival in 2013. He is artistic director of Painted

Notes on Contributors


Filly Theatre and one of the founding directors of the Samuel Beckett Summer School, both based in Dublin. Barry McGovern, a former member of the RTÉ Players and the Abbey Theatre Company, is regarded by many as one of the foremost interpreters of Beckett’s work. He has played Vladimir, Estragon and Lucky in Waiting for Godot (Vladimir in the Beckett-on-Film Godot), Clov in Endgame, Willie in Happy Days and Krapp in Krapp’s Last Tape. On radio he has played Henry in Embers (with Billie Whitelaw), Fox in Rough for Radio II, and has directed All That Fall. He has also played Words in Words and Music. His two one-man shows, produced by the Gate Theatre, I’ll Go On and Watt have toured worldwide. His most recent one-man Beckett performance is First Love. He frequently gives readings of Beckett’s prose and poetry and masterclasses and workshops on Beckett’s work. He has taught at the University of California at Davis and at Notre Dame. In 1998 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Letters by Trinity College Dublin. Anna McMullan is Professor of Theatre in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television, at the University of Reading. She is Principal Investigator of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project on ‘Staging Beckett: The Impact of Productions of Samuel Beckett’s Plays on Theatre Practice and Cultures in the UK and Ireland’, a three-year collaboration (2012–15) between the Universities of Reading and Chester, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She is author of Performing Embodiment in Samuel Beckett’s Drama (2010) and Theatre on Trial: The Later Drama of Samuel Beckett (1993), and co-edited Reflections on Beckett: A Centenary Celebration (2009) with Steve Wilmer, The Theatre of Marina Carr: ‘before rules was made’ (2003) with Cathy Leeney, and a special issue of Australasian Drama Studies on ‘Performing Ireland’ with Brian Singleton (2003). Trish McTighe is a Lecturer in Drama at Queen’s University Belfast. Prior to this she was a post-doctoral researcher on the Staging Beckett Project


Notes on Contributors

at the University of Reading (2012–15) and a visiting scholar in Irish drama at Fordham University in 2014. She is the author of The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett’s Drama, which was published with Palgrave in 2013 and she has published articles in the journals Modern Drama, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, and the Irish University Review. Paul Murphy is Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities, Queen’s University Belfast. He has published widely on Irish theatre and his books include Hegemony and Fantasy in Irish Drama, 1899–1949 (2008). His current research focuses on theatre in relation to the conceptualization of stratification and social justice in the wake of post-structuralism. Paul is former President of the Irish Society for Theatre Research and is currently Secretary General of the International Federation for Theatre Research. Christopher Murray is Emeritus Professor of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. He is former editor of Irish University Review, former chair of the Irish Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL) and chair of the board of the Gaiety School of Acting. Among his publications are Twentieth-Century Irish Drama: Mirror up to Nation (1997), Seán O’Casey: Writer at Work, A Biography (2004), and The Theatre of Brian Friel: Tradition and Modernity (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2014), and he has edited Samuel Beckett: 100 Years, Centenary Essays (2006), Brian Friel: Essays, Diaries, Interviews 1964–1999 (1999) and ‘Alive in Time’: The Enduring Drama of Tom Murphy, New Essays (2010). Siobhán O’Gorman is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at the School of Fine & Performing Arts, University of Lincoln. She also has taught and researched drama, theatre and performance at the University of Derby, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway. She was a recipient of the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship from 2013 to 2015. Her work has appeared in a number of books and such journals as Scene, Irish Studies Review and the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance.

Notes on Contributors


She is on the executive committee of the Irish Society for Theatre Research, the editorial board of Studies in Costume & Performance and is co-editor of the Carysfort essay collection Devised Performance in Irish Theatre: Histories and Contemporary Practice (2015). Anthony Roche is a Professor in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin, where he has taught for twenty-five years. Recent publications include Synge and the Making of Modern Irish Drama (2013) and The Irish Dramatic Revival 1899–1936 (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015). He is Chair of the Management Board of the Irish University Review. Sarah Jane Scaife is Artistic Director of Company SJ. She directed seven of Beckett’s shorter plays at the Abbey Theatre 1989/1990 and adapted Company for the stage, 1990, which subsequently toured to The Galway Arts Festival, Mayfest in Scotland and Aarhus in Denmark. Between 2000 and 2006 she conducted a project, Beckett in Asia, with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs. She directed Beckett’s drama in Georgia, Mongolia, India, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Greece with actors from each country. In 2009 she began a project Beckett in the City, which aimed to re-insert the writing of Samuel Beckett into the social and architectural spaces of the city of Dublin. Although begun in 2009 with the placement of Act Without Words II on the street in Dublin, there are now three distinct productions – Beckett in the City: Rough For Theatre I and Act Without Words II (2013), Beckett in the City: Fizzles (2014), Beckett in the City: The Women Speak (2015). Company SJ worked with the Dublin Fringe Festivals for these three productions. This work has toured to London (Barbican), New York (River to River) Enniskillen (Happy Days), Tokyo (Beckett and Rubble Festival) and other festivals in Ireland and England. Scaife holds an MPhil in Irish Theatre and Film from Trinity College and a PhD in the work of Samuel Beckett from the University of Reading; she is Adjunct Lecturer in Trinity College Dublin and has given countless workshops, lectures and residencies internationally.


Notes on Contributors

Brian Singleton is the Samuel Beckett Professor of Drama and Theatre, Academic Director of The Lir – National Academy of Dramatic Art and champion of Trinity College’s interdisciplinary research theme Creative Arts Practice. As well as publishing widely on orientalism and interculturalism in performance, most notably in the monograph Oscar Asche, Orientalism & British Musical Comedy (2004), and in several publications on the work of Antonin Artaud, Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil, his most recent monograph contribution to theatre research is his Masculinities and the Contemporary Irish Theatre (2011). He is former editor of Theatre Research International and former president of the International Federation for Theatre Research. He serves on the editorial boards of New Theatre Quarterly and Contemporary Theatre Review. In 2012 he won the ATHE Excellence in Editing Award (along with Janelle Reinelt) for their book series ‘Studies in International Performance’ published by Palgrave Macmillan. He is currently editing a new book series (with Elaine Aston) entitled ‘Performance InterActions’ and working on a monograph on the work of ANU Productions. David Tucker is Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. He is the author of Samuel Beckett and Arnold Geulincx: Tracing ‘a literary fantasia’ (Bloomsbury, 2012) as well as a number of book chapters and journal articles on Beckett. Current work includes a co-authored book entitled New Realisms: Contemporary British Cinema (Edinburgh University Press). Feargal Whelan was awarded a PhD from University College Dublin in 2014 with a thesis titled ‘Samuel Beckett and the Irish Protestant Imagination’. He co-founded and co-organized the series of conferences ‘Samuel Beckett and the “State” of Ireland’ which were held annually in Dublin from 2011 to 2013 and is currently co-editing the conference proceedings for publication in 2016. He has presented on Beckett at various conferences in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, including the Samuel Beckett Society panel at

Notes on Contributors


the MLA Convention Vancouver in 2015. At present he is a research associate at the Humanities Institute at UCD.

Acknowledgements The editors are grateful to Anna McMullan, Graham Saunders, David Pattie and Matthew McFrederick for their collegiality, support and warmth over the life of the Staging Beckett project. Staging Beckett, a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council involving the universities of Reading and Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, has worked to bring to light the performance histories of Samuel Beckett’s drama on UK and Irish stages and build a database of all professional productions of the author’s work since 1955. The present two volumes represent the core aims of the Staging Beckett project and would not have been possible without the generous support of our team. Guy Baxter and Siobhan Wootton are to be thanked in particular for their support on the database aspect of the project, as are Kate Dorney and her colleagues at the V&A. We are grateful also to the Beckett community at the University of Reading, especially to James Knowlson for his generous and tireless support of Staging Beckett. And finally, we would like to thank another member of the Beckett community who was also a supporter of Staging Beckett from its earliest days and who sadly passed away during the life of the project. This book is dedicated, therefore, to the memory of Julie Campbell.

Foreword Christopher Murray

The Irish Beckett, or Beckett as Irish writer, is now here to stay.1 Even though, many years ago, the Irish director Alan Simpson (1920–80) convincingly showed in his Beckett and Behan and a Theatre in Dublin that the voices in Waiting for Godot, far from being dead, were electrically alive with Dublin rhythms and idioms, Beckett himself denied that he used these intentionally: ‘I am not particular about accent. Though I confess the American can be a trial. In my private “queuloir” I have to do with the remains of a Dublin voice. With neither pleasure nor pain.’2 When Simpson tried to get him to don the green jersey for Godot in 1954, Beckett wrote to him: ‘As to the propriety of first production in English being in Dublin, I’m afraid I have no feeling about that at all’ (2011b: 479). What he may not, in his modesty, have fully appreciated at this time was that Dublin had great ‘feeling’ for him and his work, as the phenomenal success of Godot, critical and popular, in 1955–6, demonstrates. Simpson’s production at the Pike ran for six months, then moved to the Dublin Gate (with eight times the capacity of the Pike) before touring to rural venues in Dundalk, Navan, Drogheda, Cork, Clonmel, Wexford, Waterford and Limerick, before fetching up at the Gas Company Theatre in Dún Laoghaire – an incredible feat for those times.3 Anthony Roche rightly remarks that this Godot was ‘a popular rather than an avant-garde success’ (1994: 4). The point needs underlining in the light of Chris Morash’s claim that ‘The speed with which En Attendant Godot [sic] went from a script that no one wanted to the object of an international bidding war explains how it ended up at the Pike Theatre’ (2002: 200). Ended up? But, it may be countered, Simpson was in at the first bid, on artistic merits only. I knew and revered Simpson as a man of the theatre, and now consider that his relationship with Beckett is a good basis for evaluating the status of the Beckett-Ireland question today.

xvi Foreword

This debate has had a rather uncertain development ever since Simpson genially won over Beckett’s suspicions regarding an Irish Godot, which self-consciously speaks in an Irish voice. Simpson is the paradigmatic director in this regard: he was determined to give to Beckett’s play a local habitation and a lilt. This decision centred on accent and performance style rather than on deeper issues of identity and displacement. To Nicholas Grene, Simpson’s cool assumption that Beckett’s then (in 1954) tentative translation of Godot privileged him as director to make his own alterations in the script in order to deliver a text more easily accommodated to Dublin argot and class distinctions was unjustified (see Grene 2008). Beckett regarded such a procedure as tampering with the ‘integrity’ of his play. Today it would more likely be seen as collaboration between a novice playwright and an astute, instinctive director. How astute, and whether astuteness rated in Beckett’s moral lexicon are moot points; I’m afraid Simpson’s procedure registered as typical Irish ambivalence, reinforcing Beckett’s guardedness. Had he known how Simpson, with the assistance of Carolyn Swift, tended to look on Beckett’s script with the same editorial eyes as had recently served the partners well with Brendan Behan’s text of The Quare Fellow he would surely have been more uneasy. Behan’s speeches, says Swift, ‘were thick wedges of dialogue, nearly all with a minimum of four sentences, and full of subordinate clauses’, but when they got down to work they realized ‘there was pure gold waiting to be prised loose from the excessive verbiage’ (Swift 1985: 139). Waiting, indeed. As was Beckett’s Godot. Accustomed mainly (apart from the trusted interventions by his friends in the readying of En attendant Godot for the stage in Paris) to the courtesies of publishers over editorial niceties, Beckett was as yet an innocent in the hands of a creative director who had much in common with Joan Littlewood.4 When he directed a revival of Godot at her Theatre Workshop in 1961, Beckett was, so to speak, ‘AP-PALLED’ (1990: 12). As he wrote to Alan Schneider, he tried to stop that production and failed: ‘All Irish and uproarious. Very upsetting’ (2014: 412), especially as Simpson was once again challenging his betters, in this case the favoured Donald



McWhinnie, whose television production was imminent. ‘I am no longer tied to Simpson – since the march he laid on me’, he wrote to MacGreevy (ibid., 445), a bit like Captain Boyle announcing he’s done with Joxer this time. In the fullness of time, Beckett and the Beckett Estate would have to put up with much worse than Simpson’s uproariousness. In any event, for good or ill, Simpson can be regarded as the father of Irish Beckett production, which is sui generis. It is, above all, democratic, in some resistance to Beckett’s authoritarian stage directions and usual dis-inclination to prioritize accessibility over precision. The excellent little book published by Alec Reid, a Dublin academic/ reviewer Beckett admired (and tutored: see Beckett 2011b: 596–7), All I Can Manage, More Than I Could (first published in 1968), exists in part to remind us that ‘he is essentially Irish, with all the national irreverence for sacred cows – his own as well as other people’s’ (1969: 16). One side of him must have known that Simpson had the right idea. But he suppressed that side in favour of his Puritan core. As he slowly felt his way in the complex world of international theatre production, in which he began to delight and at the same time to find overwhelming, Beckett could tolerate, indeed, idolize Irish actors of the calibre of Jack MacGowran, Patrick Magee and Marie Kean (and in later times, no doubt, Barry McGovern) but retained his slight suspicion for the likes of Cyril Cusack, who regarded Simpson as his protégé. Others were beneath his notice. As was the case with Joyce, for Beckett there was a finer world elsewhere than Dublin offered. But whether he realized it or not, the Irish back home (quaint term in this context) revered his art, particularly his plays, as the canon was painfully assembled. The new Abbey, so different from the one Murphy hoped to insult by flushing his ashes down its solitary toilet, ‘on the right as one goes down into the pit’, so that ‘the chain be there pulled upon them, if possible during the performance of a piece’ (Beckett, 1973: 151), could surprisingly – as Anthony Roche ably demonstrates – range from Play in 1967 and the world premiere of Come and Go the following year, all the way via Peter O’Toole and Donal McCann in Godot to a shattering Rockaby with Marie Kean in 1985. Then the

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rivalling Gate Theatre took over, a site as beloved to Beckett as to his good friend Mary Manning, and in that space Michael Colgan created for a time a shrine to Beckett with his festivals in 1991 and 2006. David Clare provides the necessary survey here. At the Gate the Irish Godot was seen repeatedly, sealing its Irish accent with unforgettable performances. Another dimension of the Irishness of Beckett, the ‘Gaelicizing’ of his plays, can nowadays be found away from Dublin theatres. Beckett is mobile. No big set is ever needed: not even for Happy Days, pace the 2007 National Theatre production, directed by Deborah Warner and starring Fiona Shaw as a very Irish Winnie, which challenged this view when it filled the Abbey stage with a grandiose set during the Dublin Theatre Festival of 2008. In fact, Beckett’s plays are ideal for touring, as Simpson first proved in 1956, just because the décor is minimalist. They presuppose as small an acting space as Yeats’s plays once did and could conceivably be accommodated in Lady Cunard’s drawing room, if such still existed, but a studio space would always be preferable, if only because less comfortable.5 The Peacock, the Abbey’s annex, is an ideal site, flexible in stage arrangement and seating approximately one hundred. (The Pike’s capacity was only fifty-five.) The Yeats Festival, directed by James Flannery, did very well in the Peacock during the 1990s. Beckett’s work was often done there in the 1980s and 1990s, and it was to that venue that Simpson brought his production of the Gaelic version of Godot in 1971 after its premiere at Galway’s An Taibhdhearc. This venture into translation was a long time in gestation. Liam Ó Briain (1888–1974), Professor of Romance Languages at University College Galway but also a co-founder of the Irish-speaking An Taibhdhearc in 1928, was keen to tackle Godot. ‘He believed the aim of [that] theatre should be to produce the best European drama in Irish translation’ (Rouse 2009: 8), and put forward the idea of a Godot in Irish in 1955. The idea did not bear fruit until 1971, with the aid of Seán Ó Carra, a regular translator at the Taibhdhearc. Cyril Cusack claimed a certain part in the whole idea.6 Carolyn Swift says that the production, ‘apart from a few small details, [was] almost a reconstruction of the original



Pike production’ (1985: 194). It was quite beautiful to hear the lines in mellifluous western Irish. I sometimes wonder if the idea of a Godot in Irish didn’t inspire Brian Friel in conceiving two languages for his Translations (1980). It can’t be all down to George Steiner’s theories. Be that as it may, Simpson’s 1971 Gaelic Godot has proved influential. Trish McTighe describes the Druid Godot of 1987 in this book. Druid (founded 1975) had already staged several Becketts in their tiny Galway space, but the aim in 1987 seems to have been specifically to locate Godot in the west without using the Irish language, to have it both ways, as it were, to create an Irish Beckett as alternative to the Dublin-accented Beckett. This manoeuvre may be seen as a trial version of Garry Hynes’s reading of Synge’s plays twenty years later, the famous DruidSynge project, which was a cultural venture with political attitude. It was a taking possession of Synge from the Abbey. In the case of Godot, however, the experiment failed. Hynes compensated by discovering and launching Martin McDonagh’s Leenane trilogy in the 1990s. McDonagh’s work is steeped in the Irish language although overlaid with parody. Nobody dares to parody Beckett at any length; nor indeed did Hynes have any such purpose in mind, it would appear. Equally interesting is the work Feargal Whelan describes in his chapter on the re-interpretation of Beckett as an Irish writer. The focus is on Belfast and the work of Aisling Ghéar, a company staging new translations of Endgame and Happy Days. Whelan also discusses the work of a Dublin group, Mouth on Fire, who move between plays in English and in Irish translation, thereby querying Beckett’s own mobility over French and English. There is an element here of making Beckett’s familiar works ‘strange’ in a new way. The end is less the attraction of Irish-speakers in the audience than of building a new bilingual audience for Beckett. This marks an interesting reversal of Liam Ó Briain’s attitude to the language question, which was very much in line with national policy and also with Ernest Blythe’s attitude at the Abbey from the 1940s through to 1966 (when the new Abbey was opened), which was to make Irish palatable by staging international one-act plays in translation, with

xx Foreword

plot summaries in the theatre programmes.7 These Irish translations would be appended to the main programme, and few patrons stayed on for the occasion. A few was audience enough for Blythe, and before we laugh we should recall Maddy Rooney’s lament for the decline of Irish – ‘our own poor dear Gaelic’ – in All That Fall (Beckett 1990: 194). Who knows, perhaps Beckett appreciated Blythe’s ambition for the Irish language. Next, a word about scenography, Irish style, as it affects Beckett. Anna McMullan writes on this topic in the book, and I shall merely introduce it here. Alan Simpson had this to say of his own use of space and setting at the tiny Pike, in contrast to that seen at the Théâtre de Babylone: I didn’t see Roger Blin’s production at the beginning of the run, but when I did see it the décor consisted simply of some pieces of light green cloth (suspiciously like old double sheets) hung around the back and sides of the stage). This gave an exceptionally dreary effect, but in my view it looked amateurish. Some years ago, I had an argument with Sam on this point. He emphatically approved of this arrangement. (1962: 131)

Simpson maintained that ‘negative dreariness’ can be represented without ‘appearing not to have bothered’, which was the case at the Babylone. In his Pike production, accordingly, Simpson designed the ‘setting’ himself, ‘which consisted of a back cloth and wings painted with daubs of green [sic], black and brown paint, very vaguely suggestive of Irish bogland and gloomy sky’. One thinks of a painting by Kenneth Webb. Beckett, unlike O’Casey for example, was not one for colour, but he might have been amused to know about the touch of green for Ireland. In contrast yet again, Peter Hall’s 1955 production of Godot at the Criterion, Simpson insists, ‘made the set much more elaborate, with various debris suggestive of a rubbish dump’ together with an ‘extremely interesting’ but ‘too large and practical’ a stage tree. Simpson was adamant that the tree should be small and clearly incapable of supporting either Vladimir or Estragon, regardless of his



weight (1962: 131–2). There is a good deal of sense to all of this, as there is to Simpson’s view that the lighting should control audience response, which he believed should be emotional rather than intellectual. It is axiomatic to observe that Beckett disdained popularity, and that he wrote Endgame to shut out its possibility, following the ‘sensational’ success of Godot just about everywhere except in Miami where the 1956 production was advertised in just that term. In 1956 Ireland, Simpson made Beckett a household name. The popularity of Godot and of its ‘waiting’ refrain was matched by critical responses from the redoubtable Con Leventhal, who helped Simpson in the negotiations with Beckett but who also accepted the role of keeping an eye on Simpson: Leventhal saw nothing but good in the production. The people’s poet Patrick Kavanagh, according to Carolyn Swift (1985: 191), saw Godot at the Pike a dozen times, and voiced his admiration in the Irish Times (28 January 1956). It is a fine appreciation of the play, seeing its importance in ‘that it both holds a mirror up to life and keeps reminding you, if you are interested in sincerity, that the reason you couldn’t endure the theatre hitherto was that it was tenthrate escapism, not your dish at all’ (Kavanagh 1967: 266–7). Brendan Behan, whose career as playwright was launched by the Pike in 1954, misread Godot, but in the most complimentary fashion, by calling it ‘a piece of class propaganda and a product of the Welfare State’.8 As a modernist, Beckett was undoubtedly elitist in his attitude towards art (of all kinds) yet in stumbling into the world of theatre he had entered upon a vulgar art form with which he had to cope as best he could (the Letters reveal much on this topic). Simpson, who shared some of Beckett’s Dublin protestant middleclass background (including graduation from TCD), comments at one point in his study that Beckett taught for two terms after graduating in Simpson’s alma mater, Campbell College, Belfast: ‘He still retains to this day, despite his gentle nature and the liberalizing influence of life in intellectual Paris, a slightly astringent quality, reminiscent of a North of Ireland pedant’ (1962: 66). Yet some have popularity thrust upon them, and such has been Beckett’s fate, even in Ireland. Damned to

xxii Foreword

fame, then, but the fame, after all, has emerged from the richness of the work perceived by the Irish more quickly than by other Anglophone commentators, performers and directors. Simpson preceded Schneider. The comment has recently been made by Jennifer Birkett: ‘There was a time when Beckett, it seemed, appealed to everyone except the Irish, and the feeling was mutual’ (2015: 10). Yet the case is, universally, rather as Katharine Worth has put it: ‘Those who have felt the magnetic pull of Beckett’s art usually want to share it with others in some way’ (1999: 147). So it is in Ireland, among all the small companies who have since the 1950s, coming and going, taken the work seriously. These include the Focus, Bedrock, Gare St Lazare Players (the Lovetts) and the far-reaching experimentalism of Sarah Jane Scaife. We are now in the era of the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, almost a contradiction in terms. It is a breakthrough and perhaps a sign of the times. For their part, the Dublin public takes pride in the magnificent Samuel Beckett Bridge (erected in 2009) to companion the Seán O’Casey bridge across the Liffey. ‘Beckett is a poor guide to his own work’, comments George Craig, the French translator whose preface graces volume 3 of the Letters (2014: xxvi). It is a worthwhile observation. Production of Beckett’s plays goes on apace in Ireland in the twenty-first century. It is quite irrelevant if many of these fly in the face of Beckett’s own strictures; they are staged with scrupulous generosity. Robert Pinget recorded a conversation he had with Beckett in July 1960 in which Beckett discussed Irish duplicity and ‘the mistake he made in going back to friendly dealings with the Dublin theatre that was asking for an option on all his plays’. This was probably the Pike, and Alan Simpson. Pinget went on, citing Beckett on the Irish in general, ‘all niceness on the outside and enemies within’, and adds, ‘Sam takes all this very badly. Always gets caught by his feelings. Suzanne tells him to give up on his country for good’ (2014: 346 n.3). But his country did not give up on him. Not yet, not by a long shot.

Introduction Ireland Remains: Beckett, Performance and the Archive Trish McTighe

The essays collected in Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland trace and analyse the ways in which Beckett’s drama has been and continues to be interwoven into the fabric of Irish and Northern Irish theatrical cultures. In their analyses of specific productions, their concern for detailed histories and genealogies of performance and design, as well as of Beckett’s legacies within specific theatre cultures, they reflect the core aims of the Staging Beckett project, a three-year collaboration between the University of Reading, the University of Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK.1 As with its companion volume, Staging Beckett in Great Britain, this book is the first complete text dedicated to the history of Beckett’s drama in performance in this region. It is fitting that Christopher Murray should preface this book given that his 1984 article in the Irish University Review offers the most complete survey of Beckett’s work in performance in Ireland to date. The current volume seeks to build upon and update this history. Driven by archival research, performance analysis and historiographical methodologies, the essays gathered in this collection focus on specific plays in production, with concern for dramaturgy, design, institutional agendas and critical reception, as well as the economic and cultural contexts which colour and impact upon all of these. Beckett had little personal presence on the Irish stage, as compared with his directorial work in London; his work at the Royal Court and Riverside Studios, for instance, is covered in detail in the companion

xxiv Introduction

volume. Yet his correspondences with Irish artists and producers, his complicated relationship with Ireland itself and the way residues of the place remain within his work, all inflect its performance history in unique ways. Theatre practice in Ireland has often marked out the Irishness of Beckett’s texts, and has been an important vehicle for the popularization of Beckett in Ireland (see also Kennedy 2009). While Beckett’s cultural identity may still be seen as a complicated issue, over the last twenty-five years or so the author has become a feature of Irish cultural and public life, as demonstrated by various acts of public commemoration from festivals to the naming of a naval warship after the author. The very expansive body of literature dealing with Beckett and Ireland need not be summarized here, though I note that many of the essays included in Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland have as their backdrop the work of scholars who have traced Ireland in Beckett’s writing and pondered the complexity of thinking about both the work and life of the man through the often narrow frame of national identity.2 In his foreword, Murray draws our attention to the remnants of a Dublin voice in Beckett’s work. By Beckett’s own admission Ireland remains within his work. Even as his post-war writing sees time and place become abstracted, visible in the passage from draft to ‘finished’ text,3 Ireland persists as a haunting, fragmented backdrop at the edges of memory, to be glimpsed, partially, through the detritus of memory which the drama presents and recycles even as it simultaneously stages its disappearance. Krapp’s injunction to ‘Be again, be again’ on Croghan, a mountain in Co. Wicklow (Beckett 1984a: 63), or to be again in the punt on the lake (ibid.), is unfulfillable, yet he is compelled to return to these memories. The later drama is filled with figures whose fragmented narratives take them on journeys into memory. Some are explicitly referential, such as Croker’s Acres as a site of trauma for the mouth of Not I (ibid., 220), or ‘Foley’s Folly’, that ruin ‘where you hid as a child’ for the figure of That Time (ibid., 228).4 Other plays are less explicit, but, as in Rebecca Schneider’s characterization of performance as both an act of remaining and a means of disappearance,5 Beckett’s

Introduction xxv

Ireland endlessly returns in the drama itself and in its production, as event or place, half-remembered, often painful. ‘What remains of all that misery? A girl in shabby green coat, on a railway-station platform? No?’ (ibid., 58). So says thirty-nine-year-old Krapp, unwilling to tread the particular passageway of memory that leads back to that scene, to an earlier time and place hinted to be Ireland in this most biographically rooted of Beckett’s plays. This volume recognizes and addresses how these memories and traces of the Ireland of Beckett’s writing have been mediated through performance; they are called up by the stage. The remains of these events, the particular instances in which Beckettian fragments and fragmentation are staged, are often to be found within the archive. It is these remnants which the Staging Beckett project has traced in one of its major project outputs: a database of all professional performances of the plays since the London and Dublin premieres in 1955.6 The essays gathered in Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland and Staging Beckett in Great Britain have sought to give flesh and life to the facts and dates of the database. When Irish theatre practitioners have brought Beckett’s work to the Irish stage, they have found various ways of negotiating the remains of Ireland in the work, in some cases restoring a perceived absence of Irish flavour to the drama, as in the Gate Theatre’s activities from the late 1980s, in others utilizing Beckett’s abstract drama as a way to think beyond the specificity of Irish aesthetic and political concerns. The work of Pan Pan Theatre Company is exemplary in this regard. As Murray illuminates, it was the Pike Theatre production that was among the first to mark the work so clearly and performatively as Irish, with director Alan Simpson ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ Irishness in the typescript of Godot. In spite of this, Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey, was relatively slow to embrace Beckett’s drama, not staging Godot until the late 1960s. In the first chapter in this volume, Anthony Roche considers the productions that the Abbey did present – the English-language premiere of Come and Go in 1968, for instance – and the theatre’s programming of Beckett’s drama in the early 1970s

xxvi Introduction

alongside Yeats and Lady Gregory. Roche argues that the inclusion of Beckett in the theatre’s programme around this time and into the 1970s indicates a shift in aesthetic concern and outlook at the theatre. Yet the Abbey’s engagement with Beckett was to peter out by the late 1980s as the Gate Theatre, under the directorship of Michael Colgan, took up regional ownership to a significant degree over Beckett’s work. The Gate was instrumental from that time in establishing Beckett as a cultural figure in Ireland, rescuing the work, by Colgan’s estimation, from neglect by the Irish theatre establishment. Colgan also ushered in international recognition of the Irishness of Beckett’s writing, all through the successful festivals in Dublin in 1991 and 2006, which toured to Lincoln Center, New York (1996) and the Barbican, London (1999 and 2006). The origins of the Gate’s Beckett work and actor Barry McGovern’s longstanding association with both that institution and with Beckett’s work, nationally and internationally, are detailed in McGovern’s own words in Chapter 2. Views differ on Beckett’s ‘repatriation’ and embrace by the Irish public after a long, perceived, exile. Colgan saw himself as rectifying a neglect of Beckett’s Irish traces within international scholarly and dramatic circles. Others have seen the practice of generating such ethnic intelligibility as distortive (Connor 2006, for example). David Clare explores in Chapter 3 how the Gate Theatre’s negotiation of a globalized theatre market with Irish branding, international star casting and so forth reflects the tension already present within Beckett’s work between the local and the global, even as it presents that work as a commodity for the global culture industry. The newfound confidence of an Ireland emerging from economic doldrums and reclaiming ownership over its somewhat prodigal body of literature manifests in Gate productions in which the rise of ‘Brand Ireland’, which Patrick Lonergan has traced,7 converges with the development of a Beckett brand in very successful ways. While treating of the work done by these major theatrical institutions of Ireland’s urban centre, this volume is also concerned with relatively under-discussed productions from smaller theatrical institutions or

Introduction xxvii

theatres outside of Dublin’s cultural hub. Siobhán O’Gorman addresses Focus Theatre, a small venue characterized by the Stanislavskian approach of one of its founders, the Strasberg studio-trained Deirdre O’Connell. O’Gorman makes the case that not only did O’Connell’s Stanislavskian approach work when it came to staging Beckett, the Focus Theatre’s Godot, in particular Mannix Flynn’s creation of a wretched slave-like Lucky, also spoke to the industrial unrest in Ireland around the time of the production. Looking north, we see the play similarly politicized in Belfast in 1999. David Grant remembers his decision to programme Godot at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Memories of that production, in which the play spoke to the tentative peace emerging from the Good Friday Agreement, are enriched by Grant’s discussions with director Gabor Tompa and reveal a production that was able to speak in subtle ways to the complexity of events in that contested territory. The essays contained within this volume and its companion attempt to account for the moment that the ‘remains’ of previous events return and are embodied on the stage. Anna McMullan’s chapter looks to the scenographic remains of performance, performing, as she puts it, as ghost whisperer, attending both to what remains in the archive and to what is missing from the theatre record. Tracing her analysis across three case studies, productions of Godot by the Pike, Abbey and the Irish Theatre Company, she demonstrates how examining Beckett’s intersections with Irish scenography exposes ‘resonant encounters’ between Irish and international theatre cultures and between Beckett and the genealogy of Irish performance history. This genealogy is revealed quite literally, for example, in the scenographic backdrop to the Irish Theatre Company’s Godot. The politics of such a genealogy is the concern of Paul Murphy’s chapter, as he examines the Pike premiere of Godot against what he argues is a ‘mediation’ of indigence on the Irish stage. The figure of the wandering tramp or tinker features heavily in Irish drama and Murphy argues that the Pike production, with Simpson’s colouration of the characters’ accents and linguistic style, sits within this tradition, one which he critically assesses within

xxviii Introduction

the context of the poverty, emigration and underinvestment that characterized Ireland from the formation of the State up to the 1950s. Feargal Whelan’s chapter on productions of Beckett in Irish and this author’s own piece on Druid Theatre Company’s Godot are similarly concerned with the ways in which voice, accent and language mark or locate performances of Beckett’s drama. Whelan examines productions of the drama in translation, highlighting the references to the Irish language within Beckett’s oeuvre and the complicated attitude of the author to the language. He sets the performance history of translated productions, from the Taibhdhearc production directed by Alan Simpson, which Murray mentions in his foreword, to the recent international work of the company Mouth on Fire, against the backdrop of Irish language policy in Ireland throughout the twentieth century. Voice is central to my commentary on the Druid production in which I argue that certain critical responses which ‘heard’ their Godot as too markedly west of Ireland reveal the growing association in the 1980s, not only between Beckett and Ireland, but more specifically (and understandably) between Beckett and Dublin. In J. M. Synge and in Tom Murphy, Druid found voices more readily able to speak to the west of Ireland context of which they were a part, even if director Garry Hynes admits to ‘seeing’ Synge through Beckett. Certain essays in this volume reflect the efforts of companies like Gare St Lazare and Pan Pan, and director Sarah Jane Scaife, to expand the performance horizons for Beckett’s work in Ireland and abroad. Scaife’s work takes Beckett outside the material and institutional frames of the theatre. In her chapter, she describes the source and realization of her vision for Beckett’s work: she uses the sites and spaces of the city – abandoned buildings, car parks and laneways – to examine the reality of the suffering, impoverished body within Beckett’s work. Brian Singleton’s essay uses Marc Augé’s theory of spatiality to set Scaife’s work within the context of the turn to site-specific practice in Irish drama. He argues that her productions render visible the otherwise overlooked arteries of a city seeking to erase signs of economic disparity and neglect. Site-specific theatre, these chapters

Introduction xxix

suggest, is a way of making Beckett’s drama into a political as well as aesthetic event. The final chapter in the book, Nicholas Johnson’s, looks to productions which move beyond the frame set by genre. He explores the work of companies like Gare St Lazare and Pan Pan, whose productions, whether we name them as adaptations, interventions or ‘readings’, have created a landscape over the last number of years which points to a future for Beckett’s drama of radical, experimental and challenging work. Just as Ireland remains in Beckett’s work dimly, so these performances remain in the archive only in glimpses, yet demand that we turn and return to them. As a whole, the essays collected in this volume cannot claim to envision a full or complete history of Beckett in performance in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Knowing that the archive itself is predicated on selection and appraisal, processes of ‘preservation and exclusion’ (Ferguson 2008: n.p.), or, as Jane Taylor points out, ‘Every act of memory is also an act of forgetting’ (2002: 243), we acknowledge, firstly, the chasm between the archival document and the performance event to which it refers. The individual pictures painted of the performances discussed in this volume are necessarily readings, interventions illuminating new aspects of these performances predicated on that fragmentary archive; further readings are of course possible. Secondly, in selecting the following essays, we have necessarily performed our own acts of exclusion. More work needs to be done for instance on the role that Beckett’s drama has played in the amateur drama field in Ireland – a topic beyond the remit of the Staging Beckett project. And although referenced here in many of the essays, the young Happy Days International Beckett Festival phenomenon remains to be fully analysed. The festival is an annual multi-arts event now in its fifth year, which brings international, Irish and British artists to Enniskillen, a small town in Northern Ireland, to perform works by and works inspired by Beckett. As Johnson notes in his chapter in this book, many works from across Beckett’s oeuvre have been realized as performance events of varying types at that festival, from installations to readings to Beckett-inspired haircuts and sandwiches. Yet

xxx Introduction

the diversity of performance practices at the Festival are but the latest wave in a long history of embodying Beckett’s drama on the Irish stage, north and south. These are instances of what Diana Taylor names as ‘repertoire’ (2003), and what William Worthen characterizes as ‘the drama’s difference engine, the machine of its (dis)appearance, and so its transformative survival’ (2008: 28). It is this energy of performance mediating texts which the present volume seeks to glimpse, even in fragments from the archive, performance forever producing its own remains even as it disappears from view, demanding that we turn to it again and again. Like Krapp and his memory machine, once is never enough.

Part 1

Theatre Histories


Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990: Broadening the Canon Anthony Roche

In October 1969 Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. On 1 December of the same year, Ireland’s National Theatre presented its first production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot on the Abbey main stage. This must have smacked to the casual observer of opportunism, of a production hastily got up to claim and brand the émigré playwright writing in French as ‘Irish’. For most of his career, Beckett would hardly have qualified as Irish on the grounds on which Irish plays and their authors were produced at the Abbey. His abstract, unlocalized plays with their rootless characters were distinctly lacking in the ‘PQ’ (Peasant Quality) deemed necessary for plays produced in the Irish National Theatre’s earlier decades. During the lengthy tenure of Ernest Blythe, first appointed as managing director in 1941 and occupying that position until well into the 1960s, there was a strong emphasis at the Abbey on the Irish language and the narrowing of the canon to exclude Anglo-Irish playwrights like Shaw who lived in and primarily set their plays in England. A dramatist living in Paris and writing his plays first in French, with no specific setting and no localization of idiom or character, would have been even further outside the purview of Blythe’s restricted focus. When Godot received its Irish premiere in October 1955, it was at the small, experimental Pike Theatre rather than at the Abbey. There were not many productions of Beckett’s plays in Dublin throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s; though an exceptional production of Happy Days was staged for the Dublin Theatre Festival


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

in 1963 with Marie Kean as Winnie. On each of the occasions Marie Kean played Winnie on a Dublin stage, her Willie was U.S. stage and screen actor and Irish resident, O.Z. Whitehead. A contributing factor was Beckett’s decision to forbid Irish productions of his work for two years after what he termed the Dublin Theatre Festival ‘hullabaloo’ in 1958 over Seán O’Casey’s new play, The Drums of Father Ned (Beckett 2014: 333). In 1960 the Pike Theatre had closed, having never recovered financially from its year-long obscenity trial, and Alan Simpson moved to London. The Abbey had been in exile in the Queen’s Theatre since 1951, whose huge size and double staff led to a lowering of artistic standards. In 1966, however, the new Abbey Theatre was finally opened and the company returned to its old location. They did so to a building ‘in the purest modernist tradition’, as Christopher Morash puts it, a 628-seat house, augmented in 1967 by the opening of a new Peacock Theatre, with a 157-seat capacity and the option to stage plays in a proscenium front or in the round (Morash 2002: 226–7). With the opening of the new Abbey, Ernest Blythe was finally moved upstairs to a more executive role on the board. The managing director was now Tomás Mac Anna, who in 1966 declared that ‘The new facilities are going to make it easy for us to devise new and exciting productions […] The main thing about moving into a new theatre is this: that you have an opportunity of breaking with a certain tradition of writing’ (ibid., 227). It is in this context, of the opening of the two new theatres and of Mac Anna’s remarks about breaking with tradition, that the Abbey’s staging of Godot in the immediate aftermath of Beckett’s Nobel Prize needs to be revisited. Scrutiny of Beckett productions at the Abbey also discloses that Godot was not their first Beckett production. 1967 sees the odd conjunction of Play and Film; 1968 the insufficiently remarkedupon English-language premiere of Come and Go, both at the Peacock. So 1969’s Godot was simply the most visible in what was already an established line of annual productions of Beckett’s plays at Ireland’s renewed and deliberately modernizing National Theatre. The Play and Film programme was produced at the Peacock in October 1967, a mere three months after the new experimental space had opened. A letter in

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


the Abbey Theatre archive1 from Tomás Mac Anna to Samuel Beckett, dated 2 May 1967, makes the provenance of this first Beckett production clear. Mac Anna writes that he is planning to mount an International Theatre Seminar at the Peacock that October, the aim of which is ‘to establish links between ourselves and other theatres, both in America and on the continent’.2 It is clear from Mac Anna’s letter that he views this proposed internationalization of the Abbey as not just building professional links with theatrical institutions in other countries. He is also interested in developing points of contact between ‘the Abbey tradition’, its prevailing mode of producing theatre, and other forms of dramaturgic practice from Europe and the US. Mac Anna indicates in his letter to Beckett that invitations have also been sent to Laurence Olivier and Helene Weigel to speak at the seminar. Olivier would have brought some filmstar glamour, but had also since 1964 been the director of England’s new National Theatre at the Old Vic. Mac Anna had a particular passion for Brecht. He returned from a period at the Berliner Ensemble in the early 1960s, determined that the Brechtian revolution would extend to Irish theatre, and staged a production of Brecht’s Life of Galileo at the Abbey/Queen’s in 1965. Beckett was the crucial double agent here, a playwright who could be seen in parallel terms to Brecht as a European revolutionizer of modern dramaturgy. But equally Beckett was a playwright who hailed from Ireland and who had significant connections with Irish plays from the Abbey Theatre’s repertoire, as Mac Anna was well aware and as the theatre would point out in various ways over the years. He was invited by Mac Anna to speak at the International Theatre Seminar, ‘we would suggest, on your own work and attitude towards the modern theatre’. There is no reply in the Abbey Archive. But it is fair to assume that Beckett courteously but firmly turned down the invitation to come to Dublin. So far, so straightforward: Beckett, in line with his lifelong practice, declines or disregards an invitation to appear and give a lecture about his work. But there is one crucial additional element in Mac Anna’s letter to Beckett that was special and bound to impact on the playwright. For Mac Anna indicated that the Abbey had invited the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Irish actor-director Jack MacGowran ‘to come to us to perform one of your works during the week’. MacGowran not only accepted the invitation but in the programme for the one-day event is listed as both appearing onstage at 8 pm and giving a talk on ‘The Theatre of Beckett’ at 3 pm.3 MacGowran did not perform in one of Beckett’s works but instead presented a one-man show made up of extracts, billed as an ‘Evening of Beckett Plays, Mimes and Extracts’, the last from several of the prose works. MacGowran was one of that small circle of Beckett actors (like Patrick Magee and Billie Whitelaw) who worked closely with the author over several decades, and displayed a deep affinity with his work. Beckett wrote both a radio play (Embers) and a TV play (Eh Joe) especially for the actor. MacGowran was not only gifted vocally but also a trained mime, as he displayed in Act Without Words I, while his expressive, bird-like face submitted to the relentless rigours of the TV camera’s inspection in Eh Joe with moving results. In the early 1960s MacGowran first had the notion of devising a one-man show of Beckett’s works, with extracts from the plays, prose and poetry. It came about when the Dublin Theatre Festival requested something from him, and was first staged there in the Gaiety in 1962, before going on to London. MacGowran continued with his practice of working on and refining his one-man Beckett show in Dublin. In 1965, he proposed a revival, now entitled Beginning to End. This was to be staged at a pocket Dublin theatre, the Lantern, run by the Dolmen Press publisher, Liam Miller, and noted principally for its productions of Yeats’s plays. As Jordan R. Young reveals in his biography of the actor, MacGowran’s ‘decision to revive the project was met with enthusiasm [on the author’s part], but Beckett was less happy about where it was being staged. “As you know I’m not keen on my work being done in Ireland,” Sam wrote Jack. “But there’s no point in bringing that up now. So I just say go ahead and good luck”’ (1987: 104). Beckett was more hands on in regard to this Dublin production than his letter or Jordan suggests, crucially intervening to propose that MacGowran drop his stylized costume in favour of the ‘large, shapeless black greatcoat’ which became the defining visual emblem of all the one-man show’s subsequent

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


incarnations (ibid., 104). There were also textual changes: Act Without Words was gone, poems were added ‘as well as excerpts from Embers and the novel, Malone Dies’ (ibid., 105). A selection of Beckett’s poems and extracts from his prose fiction featured in the first half, extracts from the plays in the second. In October 1967, MacGowran brought his one-man show to Ireland’s newly opened National Theatre at Mac Anna’s request. Such was the audience demand for the one performance of MacGowran’s Beginning to End and his lecture that both were moved upstairs to the Abbey Theatre, where they promptly sold out. But this appearance was also something of a homecoming for Dubliner MacGowran. He had become an actor on the Abbey stage in the mid-1940s, where his parts mainly consisted of minor roles in humdrum productions of Synge and O’Casey. The one outlet for his acting ambition and versatility was the annual Abbey Christmas pantomime in Irish devised by Mac Anna, where MacGowran was encouraged to improvise and his roles included ‘a cigar-smoking infant, a marionette in a doll-maker’s shop, an elf and a scarecrow […] One year, in Una agus Jimín, he created a sensation by whistling his way through the entire performance’, a mime which recalled Jean-Louis Barrault’s Baptiste for the Sunday Press reviewer (ibid., 33–4). MacGowran also had aspirations to direct and, along with a small group of ambitious young actors, was allowed to mount a production of Jack B. Yeats’s In Sand in the autumn of 1948, with the painter-playwright furnishing the sets. Less than three years later, the Peacock was gone, burned down in the Abbey fire; now, sixteen years later, three months before it reopened, Mac Anna was lining up his old colleague to bring a Beckett programme to the new Peacock Theatre. Mac Anna’s letter to Beckett also revealed that, in addition to showcasing MacGowran, the Abbey was ‘seeking to show “Film” for the first time in Ireland’. The programme for 7 October 1967 indicates that he succeeded, and that Buster Keaton in Film was followed by a mime extract from Les Enfants du Paradis with Jean-Louis Barrault. An additional irony is that Beckett had originally intended for MacGowran to star in Film but had to settle in the end, happily


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

and no less appropriately, for Keaton (Bair 1978: 570). The following day, 8 November 1967, saw one performance of Play, the first Beckett play to be staged in the Peacock, at that point one of his most recent, demanding and experimental. Three members of the outstanding group of younger actors who came to the fore at the Abbey in the 1960s appeared in it: Angela Newman as W1, Joan O’Hara (mother of the novelist/playwright Sebastian Barry) as W2, and Pat Laffan as (the) Man. Beckett could not but have been persuaded of Mac Anna and the Abbey’s seriousness in staging his work by this triple bill – of his beloved MacGowran and of two of his most recent and most demanding works. I am inferring this from Beckett’s important decision (especially given his earlier stated reluctance to have his work performed in Ireland) to let the Peacock put on the English-language premiere of one of his plays, Come and Go, on 28 February 1968, which ran for thirteen performances. The Abbey programme featured a relatively recent photo of Beckett in Dublin, smiling shyly as he was awarded his honorary doctorate at Trinity in 1959. The note on the author described him being brought up as ‘almost a Quaker’.4 Come and Go was directed by Eddie Golden, a senior member of the acting company, who would go on to play Krapp at the Peacock in August 1970 and May 1971. The three women in Come and Go, whose ages are ‘undeterminable’ (Beckett 1990: 353) according to Beckett’s note, were played by three of the youngest members of the company: Deirdre Purcell (later a novelist) as Flo; Maire O’Neill as Vi; and Kathleen Barrington as Ru. Not coincidentally, director Golden notes in the programme a major motivation for their decision to stage Beckett’s Come and Go: ‘Play, his first work at the Abbey, attracted keen and significantly VERY YOUNG audiences.’ Come and Go was presented at the Peacock in a triple bill with Eugene O’Neill’s Before Breakfast and Jean Genet’s The Maids, a positioning which identifies the Irish-born Beckett in international terms. On the same day that this bill premiered, the Abbey wrote to Beckett’s agent, Curtis Brown, seeking permission to produce Godot in the Peacock Theatre. This proposed production took the better part

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


of two years to reach the stage. But the stage on which it appeared was the Abbey’s. The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Beckett while that production was being readied was fortuitous and would have helped fill those many seats. But the main reason for the decision to move Godot to the Abbey mainstage was the star casting of Peter O’Toole as Vladimir. In 1969, O’Toole was still in his filmstar prime, before the decline in both career and health he experienced in the mid-1970s; in 1968 he had received his third Oscar nomination, for playing King Henry II opposite Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter. This was not O’Toole’s first encounter with Godot; he had first played Vladimir in 1957 at the Bristol Old Vic and in 1962 had (unsuccessfully) approached Beckett with the proposal of turning the play into a movie, which he would produce and in which he would star (Young 1987: 71). The Godot production at the Abbey in 1969 was O’Toole’s third appearance on Irish stages in almost as many years. He had appeared as Captain Boyle opposite MacGowran as Joxer Daly in a 1966 production of O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at the Gaiety, with O’Toole’s ‘Irish’ accent attracting much (negative) comment. He returned to the Gaiety in 1969 opposite Susannah York in Shaw’s Man and Superman. The Dublin audience had not yet tired of seeing O’Toole in person and flocked to see the Abbey Godot, which sold out its eighteen main stage performances. The attendance would have been further boosted by national pride at Beckett’s having just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the third Irish author to be so recognized and the first in forty-four years. The Irish critics unanimously acclaimed the play and production. ‘Memorable’, ‘Most Satisfying’, ‘Worth Waiting For’ ran the headings. What all of the reviewers stressed was that O’Toole played in harmony with the other actors, all members of the regular Abbey acting company, and did not make it a star turn. As Seamus Kelly remarked in The Irish Times: ‘It’s a measure of O’Toole’s professionalism as much as his respect for the play and its production that this is not made a medium for a star to show his virtuosity’ (1969). O’Toole’s performance was a very physical one, loose-limbed, gangling, underscoring the degree to


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

which the neurasthenic, restless Vladimir frequently moves about the stage. As foil and contrast, Donal McCann’s Estragon was more quiet and physically composed, a figure of stoic resignation. At the time, O’Toole was thirty-six. McCann was a good eleven years younger and one reviewer queried his age: ‘McCann, as Estragon, looks too young for the part, but as the evening progresses his characterization deepens and his performance is very impressive’ (Smith 1969). McCann was a rising star at the Abbey, having first come to notice in the ensemble for Patrick Kavanagh’s Tarry Flynn in 1966; but holding his own opposite O’Toole increased his profile internationally and advanced him to playing Phineas Finn in the BBC version of Anthony Trollope’s Pallisers novels only a few years later. In the second of his autobiographies, O’Toole highlights McCann’s performance as Gabriel Conroy in John Huston’s film of Joyce’s The Dead (1987) and refers to ‘the other night sitting in the audience, [where] I saw McCann with matchless passion and superbly honed technique’ perform the lead in Sebastian Barry’s The Steward of Christendom (1995), McCann’s last major stage role before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1999 (O’Toole 1996: 381). O’Toole writes that ‘for almost thirty years Donal and I have been friends and colleagues’ (ibid., 380). He does not refer specifically to their collaboration on the Abbey production of Godot but presumably that experience helped to underwrite his claim that Donal McCann was ‘as fine an actor as any this world knows’ (ibid., 380). The casting of Pozzo was extremely unusual and drew a good deal of adverse comment. The part was played by Eamon Kelly and seriously went against the grain of how Irish productions of Godot tended to interpret the part. In the Pike original, Alan Simpson had hired Nigel Fitzgerald, ‘an Anglo-Irish actor who had toured for years with Anew McMaster’ (Simpson 1962: 79), and encouraged him to play Pozzo as a landlord figure, oppressing the ‘natives’, Didi and Gogo (not to mention Lucky). In the later Gate Godot, the part was habitually played by Alan Stanford, an English actor long resident in Ireland. But at the Abbey Pozzo was played by Kelly, a Kerry actor who specialized in ‘native’ parts and went on to develop a series of highly effective storytelling

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


one-man shows. Most critics felt Kelly was miscast, and too sympathetic an actor to play the ‘brutish’ Pozzo. An exception was Maureen O’Farrell in the Evening Press, who offered an ingenious interpretation: ‘Equally impressive is Eamon Kelly as the brutish Pozzo, whom he plays like a tyrannical country schoolmaster cuffing his backward pupil for want of anything better to do’ (1969). O’Farrell is the one critic to allow for the possibility that one Irishman might oppress another, a possibility also promoted by Bernard Shaw in John Bull’s Other Island. Shaw had been returned to the Abbey repertoire by Mac Anna earlier in 1969 (after over thirty years’ exile by Blythe). John Bull’s Other Island offers a mirror image of Lucky when the labourer Patsy Farrell enters, ‘intolerably overburdened’ (Shaw 1971: 933) by striving to carry the food and drink of another character, not the local Anglo-Irish landlord but the parish priest, Father Dempsey. Patsy loses his balance and falls flat on the ground, scattering food in all directions. The relationship of Eamon Kelly’s Pozzo and Des Cave’s Lucky at the Abbey equally showed that post-Independence Ireland still had its oppressors. Cave demonstrated a rare willingness among the young Abbey players (who favoured the prevailing naturalism) for tackling overtly poetic parts; in 1973 he played the lead in a production of Yeats’s version of Oedipus the King directed by Michael Cacoyannis. McCann and Cave were of an age, physically alike and frequently paired; they were to play the parts of Gar Private and Gar Public in the 1970s film version of Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! The resemblance between the two actors in this Abbey production of Godot suggests a kinship and parallel between Lucky and Estragon as between Pozzo and Vladimir. The youthfulness of this Godot which the twenty-five-year-old McCann established was enhanced by the casting of the eight-year-old Danny Figgis from the Brendan Smith [Acting] Academy as the Boy. It was ironic that the day of the production’s opening, 1 December 1969, saw the abrupt departure after nine months of Simpson as Artistic Adviser (as the post was now known) and his replacement by Hugh Hunt. As Hunt puts it in his history of the theatre: ‘A brief press announcement stated that he [Simpson] “did not see eye to eye


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

with the Board”’ (Hunt 1979: 206). Tomás Mac Anna had made the decision to have Godot produced in the Peacock shortly before he left the Abbey to take up a temporary professorship in the US. Simpson, not unsurprisingly, followed through on the decision when he was appointed Artistic Adviser, though the direction was to be by Sean Cotter. The one occasion Simpson was to direct Godot at the National Theatre was when his Irish-language version, Ag Fanacht le Godot, produced at Galway’s An Taibhdhearc theatre, was invited to play for two nights on 26 February 1972. Godot’s direction by Sean Cotter, with his years of experience in directing radio drama, could not be faulted. It paid equal attention to language and to movement. Like almost all Dublin productions of Godot it played up the comedy and music hall nature of the exchanges between Vladimir and Estragon but, crucially, not at the expense of the underlying unhappiness of the characters and their predicament. As Christopher Murray writes of the production: ‘Although the comedy was stressed, it yielded at appropriate moments to the serious and the profound’ (1984: 116). By contrast, the second (and, to date, last) production of Godot on the Abbey mainstage was a disappointment. It was staged in late 1976 to honour the playwright’s seventieth birthday. In a letter of 9 September 1976 to Mac Anna (now back in position as Artistic Director) and designer Wendy Shea, visiting American director Eugene Lion stressed that he wanted to foreground ‘the humor and uncrushable humanity of Godot’.5 He went on to point out that ‘Beckett is clearly influenced by the early film comics, who were themselves deeply in debt to European music hall and circus clowns.’ The debt in Beckett’s representation of the two tramps to music hall and vaudeville double acts had also been a feature of the 1969 Godot. Director Sean Cotter remarked that ‘before each performance, […] O’Toole and McCann listened to old records of Flanagan and Allen in O’Toole’s dressing room, in order to ger the music-hall “feel” and timing right before curtain up’ (Murray 1984: 116). Those who saw Lion’s production of Godot at the Abbey will have come away with the strong impression that Estragon and Vladimir

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


were being represented as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. John Molloy, with his long, thin body and hawk-like face, was a cadaverous Estragon and Micheál O hAonghusa a portly Vladimir, with Hardy’s little black moustache to cement the association. There is certainly precedent and evidence in Beckett’s writing for his interest in this comic double act. The addenda with which Watt concludes contains the jubilant line ‘Made merry with the hardy laurel’ (Beckett 1963: 252). Hugh Kenner advances Laurel and Hardy as ‘the immediate model for the pair of men in Waiting for Godot’ (1973: 24). Kenner also makes the point that Laurel and Hardy, unlike most other silent-film comedians, successfully made the transition to the sound medium, where Laurel’s high, squeaky voice and Hardy’s complacently plummy tones added another dimension to their comic appeal. He sets the last page of Godot, where Estragon is repeatedly enjoined by Vladimir to ‘Pull on your trousers’, beside the following dialogue from Way Out West (1937): Hardy  Get on the mule. Laurel What? Hardy Get on the mule. (ibid., 24)

But as Lion’s production proved, the problem in insisting as he did on the Estragon/Laurel and Vladimir/Hardy parallel was that it ruled out other possibilities and removed the necessary ambiguity so crucial to interpreting Beckett on stage. Chaplin too wore a bowler hat and his Tramp persona is closer to the marginalized, roadside existence of Didi and Gogo than Stan and Ollie, who frequently came equipped with unsympathetic wives. The casting of the bulky O hAonghusa as Vladimir, clearly much heavier than the starvedlooking Molloy, removed the necessary ambiguity in their discussion as to which is the heavier when the two tramps come to consider hanging themselves: Vladimir  But am I heavier than you? Estragon  So you tell me. I don’t know. There’s an even chance. Or nearly. (Beckett 1990: 19)


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

In the Lion production, the gags were stressed at the expense of the play’s darker elements. The director equally displayed little patience with Beckett’s stage directions, having ‘a prompter audibly in use whenever a pause occurred’ (Murray 1984: 117). Six months later, on 17 April 1977, a Sunday night at the Abbey, the theatre staged Beckett’s own Schiller Theater production of Godot. The main stage was not to see another homegrown production of Godot nor, indeed, of any other Beckett play. But the continuity of the Irish National Theatre’s commitment to the playwright continued at regular intervals in the Peacock throughout the 1970s and 1980s. On 25 August 1970 four performances were given there of Krapp’s Last Tape, with Edward Golden (who had directed Play in 1967) in the title part. The production was revived on 12 May 1971. Seamus Kelly wrote of Golden’s performance in his Irish Times review: ‘Krapp’s Last Tape gives Edward Golden every conceivable chance to use his whole mimetic and vocal range, and he exploits each modal cadence of Beckett’s Proustian essay with a nicely judged sense of senescent light and shade’ (Kelly 1970). Krapp’s Last Tape was presented on this occasion as one of four one-act plays at the Peacock. What deserves particular comment is the combining of Beckett’s play with W. B. Yeats’s Purgatory, a pairing cemented through the casting of Edward Golden as Krapp and the Old Man respectively. The four plays as a whole – the other two of which were Lady Gregory’s The Rising of the Moon and Frank O’Connor’s In the Train – can be seen as a strategic move by the Abbey to align Beckett with Irish rather than international drama. Specifically, the grouping situates Beckett within a tradition of Irish drama centred on the Abbey, the plays of Yeats and Gregory and plays staged there in the 1930s, a period when Beckett regularly attended Abbey productions. A key figure in this programming was Hugh Hunt, who in 1970 was Artistic Director and who had first come to the Abbey from Manchester in the 1930s at Yeats’s behest. Hunt was accompanied by the designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, further indication that a certain theatrical stylishness and European emphasis was being brought to the Abbey to rise to the new challenge of the Gate Theatre. Sean Cotter, fresh from the Godot,

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


directed the Lady Gregory play. Hunt had directed the original productions of Purgatory and In the Train in the 1930s and, as with all of Frank O’Connor’s plays, had ‘collaborated to a greater or lesser extent on their writing’ (Fitz-Simon 2003: 75). Seamus Kelly connects the two productions of Yeats’s Purgatory through the direction of Hunt and surmises that there has been no Abbey revival in the intervening thirty-two years that he can remember. He commends the ‘fine reading of the Old Man by Edward Golden’ (Kelly 1970) but makes no connection between the Yeats and Beckett plays. Nevertheless, it is one that Hunt as Artistic Director was clearly aware of in putting together the programme and directing these plays. Beckett had made his more positive views of Yeats’s drama known through his letter to Cyril Cusack in turning down a request to write a note for the 1956 staging of a centenary programme of Shaw plays: ‘I wouldn’t suggest that G.B.S. is not a great play-wright, whatever that is when it’s at home. What I would do is give the whole unupsettable apple-cart for a sup of the Hawk’s Well’ (Beckett 2011b: 623). And the first line of Yeats’s At the Hawk’s Well – ‘I call to the eye of the mind’ (Yeats 1997: 113) – turns up as one of Winnie’s beloved quotations in Happy Days, though it is not one she acknowledges. It has been clear for some time that Purgatory is the Yeats play that had the greatest influence on Beckett’s playwriting. A 1938 letter to George Reavey confirmed that Beckett attended the opening night of Hunt’s production of Purgatory at the Abbey on 10 August 1938 and was at some pains not to miss it: ‘I hope to be here [in Dublin] for the first night of Yeats’s new play Purgatory next Wednesday week at the Abbey’ (Beckett 2009b: 640). Only two performances of Purgatory were scheduled, as part of a festival and symposium on theatre at the Abbey organized by Lennox Robinson. There are striking parallels between Purgatory and Godot: both plays feature two tramps gathering in a bare space with a stripped tree to await a key event. But when placed together as they were by Hunt in this 1970 programme at the Peacock, the connections and similarities between Purgatory and Krapp’s Last Tape also emerge strongly. As the double casting of Edward Golden


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

underscores, both plays foreground two old men engaged in the act of remembering. One play is a monologue, or series of monologues, the other a near-monologue in which the Old Man is occasionally but only briefly interrupted by the Boy. The sense of an Oedipal drama is strong in Purgatory, centred as it is on remembering the mother on her marriage night. But Krapp’s Last Tape also focuses on the figure of the mother, on this occasion at the moment of death. The older Krapp is aware, as the younger is not, of everything he has had to sacrifice in human relations to pursue his artistic calling as a poet. Both Yeats’s Old Man and Beckett’s Krapp would have wished their life narratives to turn out otherwise (Yeats’s Old Man would have preferred never to have been born). But as events play out in the former’s vision of the night of his begetting and the younger Krapp’s confidence that the best is yet to come, the two older figures increasingly appear as impotent, helpless, aged figures in the face of their own histories. Dramaturgically, linear progress yields to cyclic repetition. Purgatory ends with the Old Man’s tragic awareness that the murder of his son has not ended all that consequence. Krapp abandons the making of a new tape to mark his seventieth birthday and instead prefers to play (and replay) the earlier erotic episode in the punt. In the closing moments of both Purgatory and Krapp’s Last Tape, the protagonists’ present is entirely usurped upon by their past, as they stand (or sit) helplessly by. The 1970s saw two more Beckett programmes at the Peacock (and the 1976 Godot at the Abbey). John Molloy, who had appeared as Estragon in the latter, took his Beckett association further by appearing in a double bill of Act Without Words I and the Irish premiere of That Time, opening on 25 April 1978. J. J. Finegan noted in the Evening Herald that Beckett’s mime was most associated with the late MacGowran (who had died on 30 January 1973) and went on to contrast the ‘anguish’ in MacGowran’s performance with the ‘less perturbed’ approach of Molloy: ‘his attitude is the Dubliner’s “so-be-it” to an impossible situation’ (Finegan 1978). Molloy had made a notable appearance at the Peacock the year before as the Dublin working-class mystic Matt Talbot in Thomas Kilroy’s Talbot’s Box,

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


directed by Patrick Mason. This non-naturalistic drama mixes Dublin demotic with a more elevated poetic register and made considerable bodily demands on the actor playing the title part. Playwright Thomas Kilroy has written of Molloy: ‘John Molloy had a striking gaunt presence on the Dublin stage, a man with serious problems, including [like MacGowran] problems with alcohol […] He was also a highly successful stand-up comic and regularly performed his one-man shows in Dublin’ (Kilroy 2015: 87). The long, lanky, ‘gaunt’ figure of John Molloy bore a striking resemblance to Samuel Beckett, which all of these productions exploited. The production of That Time came a mere two years after the Royal Court premiere. Its Peacock production would have given particular resonance to the central character’s return to Dublin after a long absence to find that the Harcourt Street Station (and the railroad line to Foxrock that it served) had been shut down: ‘all closed down and boarded up Doric terminus of the Great Southern and Eastern all closed down’ (Beckett 1990: 391). The explicit Harcourt Street Station identification may have encouraged a Dublin audience of That Time to read specific Dublin locations into more general references such as the ‘Library’ – ‘sitting at the big round table with a bevy of old ones poring on the page and not a sound’ (ibid., 394) – and the ‘Portrait Gallery’, with the ‘portraits of the dead black with dirt and antiquity and the dates on the frames in case you might get the century wrong’ (ibid., 391). The Beckett programme was rounded out with Come and Go, the play which had received its English-language premiere at that theatre just over a decade before. The key Beckett production at the National Theatre in the 1970s was Happy Days, which opened on 10 April 1973, with Marie Kean as Winnie and O. Z. Whitehead as Willie. This reunited the duo who had first appeared together in Happy Days in 1963 at Dublin’s Eblana. That original production had since been disseminated in two ways: when Irish television (Telefís Éireann) had broadcast a recording of the production and when the production was restaged in London under the direction of MacGowran. It is hard to know what a 1960s Irish television


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

audience made of Happy Days, not only on its own terms but especially of the bizarre conditions to which Kean was subjected, since she was better known then as the leading actor in the radio soap, The Kennedys of Castleross, in which for eighteen years she played the indomitable matriarch Mrs Kennedy. But Kean in the early 1960s was beginning to make her mark in British films of such Irish material as Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow and Edna O’Brien’s The Girl with Green Eyes, especially after she left the Abbey Theatre Company in 1961 where she had trained and performed for many years. Kean therefore came to Winnie at the Peacock in 1973 as something of a star performer, and this was to be even more the case when she and Whitehead reprised their roles there in May 1986. Kean was a star in the same vein as MacGowran rather than O’Toole: someone who had started out in their native Dublin and had gained years of experience at the Abbey Theatre before going on to an international career on the world stage and in movies. Her most memorable film role, the year after she reprised Winnie at the Peacock, was also her last: as Mrs Malins in John Huston’s valedictory film of Joyce’s The Dead (1987). The long-suffering look that Kean directs at the camera while enduring her hapless drunkard son Freddie gives something of the flavour of her Winnie as she copes with her child-husband, Willie. The reviews of Happy Days at the Peacock, although uniformly positive, are singularly lacking in detail about Kean’s performance. She was to return to the Peacock in the 1980s, not only as Winnie but playing W in a production of Rockaby on 19 July 1984 and 30 October 1985. Kean sat immobile in her chair while her soft Irish accent intoned the play’s words on a recording; but she brought full actorly power to her physical presence onstage. An extraordinary triple-headed photo of Kean in The Irish Times the week in 1984 that the play opened, with images of her in double profile and staring straight ahead, testified that she had the ‘Unkempt grey hair’ and the ‘Huge eyes’ (Beckett 1990: 433) specified by Beckett, the same Roman/Irish nose as MacGowran and a haunting beauty. The 1970s ended with a double bill of productions directed by Beckett (with the San Quentin Drama Workshop) visiting the Abbey

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


for several nights: Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame on 26 May 1980 and Godot on 9 June 1980. Two of these plays had already been seen there in the National Theatre productions already discussed. So far, there had been no homegrown production of Endgame at the Peacock. This was to alter in the 1980s with Ben Barnes’s direction of the play starring Godfrey Quigley as Hamm and Barry McGovern as Clov, first staged in the Peacock on 19 July 1984 and revived on 30 October 1985 (after a visit to Greece). I still vividly recall this Endgame thirty years on and regard it as the best production of Beckett’s play I have seen. Accordingly, I will concentrate on it as the last production in this survey of Beckett at the Abbey. The director Ben Barnes, fresh out of University College Dublin and Dramsoc, made a name for himself in the 1980s for his sustained engagement with a range of Beckett’s plays. He first directed Beckett at the Peacock from 4 to 14 February 1981, a triple bill comprising Not I, Play and Footfalls. Kate Flynn dominated all three plays and received strong support from Maureen Toal and Vincent McCabe. In the Spring 1984 Irish University Review, a Special Issue on Beckett edited by Maurice Harmon, Ben Barnes contributed a fine and detailed essay entitled ‘Aspects of Directing Beckett’. Most of Barnes’s essay concentrates on Godot, specifically a production he had directed in 1982 for the Irish Theatre Company, with McGovern as Vladimir and Ciarán Hinds as Estragon. In his closing remarks, Barnes makes a major division in Beckett’s stage work between the early plays (up to and including Happy Days) and the later. In progressing from the former, he writes, the director has the task of ‘convincing the actor to forfeit the notion of character in the service of poetic stage images, [where] the emphasis is on language accompanied by a single stage image’ (Barnes 1984: 86). Barnes then specifically references the later Beckett plays he had directed three years earlier at the Peacock, describing in each case how the actors in Not I, Play and Footfalls must accept considerable control and restriction of their normal range of bodily movement and vocal intonation. When the actor submits to this ‘de-personalisation […] then the tension that exists between an actor attempting to express an emotionally apprehended state of mind


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

in a form which unrelentingly does not permit expression creates the dynamic which makes these plays or playlets work’ (ibid., 87). Ben Barnes’s article was published in 1984, the same year he directed Endgame at the Peacock. It contains very few remarks on the play, in contrast to Godot, but they are suggestive. Barnes groups Endgame with the other early plays, where ‘character can be spoken of and explored in a conventional way’ (Barnes 1984: 75). On the other hand, as Barnes stresses, these works are not naturalistic and repeatedly alert us to the fact that we and the characters are in a theatre observing each other. This fusing of character with theatricalization led to the success of the production. McGovern once more acted under Ben Barnes’s direction, as Clov (he was to return to Vladimir in a sustained fashion at the Gate from 1991 on). McGovern’s Clov moved and looked like a stick insect, or as he himself described it to me, ‘spiderish’.6 Where the stage directions of Godot afforded O’Toole a fair degree of physical freedom, Endgame is precise, measured and mechanical in the physical movement it prescribes for Clov, who is the only one of the play’s four characters cursed with full ‘mobility’. McGovern in this also resembled a marionette, jerky but precise, moved by another’s strings. He told me that his movements were dictated by Beckett’s direction that Clov has a ‘Stiff, staggering walk’ (Beckett 1990: 92) and that the character ‘can’t sit down’ (ibid., 110). Accordingly, McGovern reckoned that Clov could not bend his knees and so, when it came to mounting the ladder in Endgame’s elaborate opening mime, he did so stiffly and with the minimum bending of the knee necessary to climb up and down the ladder. Godfrey Quigley delivered a tour de force as Hamm. This veteran actor of stage, television and film had achieved a career highlight on the Abbey mainstage the year before Endgame playing the Irish Man in Tom Murphy’s masterpiece, The Gigli Concert. If the Irish Man seeks (impossibly) to sing like Gigli, the actor playing him needs to develop an extraordinary tonal range to deliver the verbal arias Murphy composes for him. In Barnes’s Endgame, Godfrey Quigley’s most memorable moment came when he leant forward to the audience after Clov had exited to his kitchen and confided: ‘Ah the creatures,

Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990


the creatures, everything has to be explained to them’ (ibid., 113). This situated him in the character of a broken-down, latter-day AngloIrishman, no longer in possession of a Big House, but still equipped with the attendant airs and graces, his retinue of servants now reduced to one. Quigley’s huge theatrical experience also emboldened him to make the most of Hamm’s asides. Between the first and second productions of Endgame at the Peacock in 1984 and 1985, McGovern worked on his Beckett one-man show, I’ll Go On, for Michael Colgan, who had been appointed Director of the Gate Theatre in 1983. If the Gate in the 1980s was gearing up for an increased commitment to staging regular productions of Beckett’s plays, the National Theatre was winding down. The Artistic Director who succeeded Mac Anna and was in that position from 1978 to 1985 was Joe Dowling and, though he himself did not direct any Beckett plays during his tenure, Dowling clearly promoted and advanced the two productions by the young Ben Barnes and Marie Kean’s return in Happy Days and appearance in Rockaby. But the second half of the decade only sees a production of Act Without Words I and II, on 18 April 1988, directed by Sarah Jane Scaife. Beckett’s death on 22 December 1989 does appear to prompt an impressive bill of five late plays on 14 August 1990 at the Peacock, also directed by Scaife – Catastrophe, Come and Go, What Where, Nacht und Träume and Footfalls. This Beckett programme was presented as part of the Yeats International Theatre Festival, under the direction of James Flannery, which saw the ambitious staging of a range of Yeats’s plays annually at the Peacock from 1989 to 1994. This commitment by the National Theatre to Yeats’s rarely performed plays appeared at the time to derive not from the Abbey itself but from Flannery’s passionate commitment to the dramatic ideals of the theatre’s co-founder and to the munificent sponsorship of Coca Cola. In the rotation of artistic directors that followed Joe Dowling’s departure in 1985, a commitment to the plays of Beckett seemed similarly lacking; they only received this rare outing under the auspices of the Yeats Festival. Colgan and the Gate Theatre were waiting in the wings to take up the cudgels on behalf of Beckett’s entire dramatic oeuvre in the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Beckett Festival of October 1991. As a result, the legacy of the Abbey in relation to Beckett productions in Ireland – sustained across several decades from 1967 to 1990, the last twenty-three years of the author’s life – has been largely and undeservedly forgotten. The one production in the two decades and more since then was the arrival in 2008 of the international production of Happy Days with Fiona Shaw as Winnie, directed by Deborah Warner. Once more the Abbey’s cavernous main stage was filled with rocks for a Beckett play, as it had been in Norah McGuinness’s set design for the 1969 Abbey Godot. Once more the words of Beckett were memorably delivered from that stage by a star actor of Anglo-Irish provenance. The accompanying programme had a rich array of photos from Abbey productions of Beckett, a visual reminder which did much to inspire this essay. It also prompts the closing remark that Beckett is too great a figure to be claimed exclusively by either the Abbey or the Gate and that the time has surely come to share that magnificent theatrical legacy.


Practice in Focus: ‘That’s how it was and them were the days’ Barry McGovern

I remember, in October 1969, my mother coming into my room and telling me that Samuel Beckett had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She knew that I would be interested. I already had a taste for Beckett. I first became acquainted with the name of Samuel Beckett on 26 June 1961 when I saw, by chance, the BBC TV production of Waiting for Godot which was directed by Donald McWhinnie. It featured Jack MacGowran as Vladimir (the only time he played that role), Peter Woodthorpe as Estragon, Felix Felton as Pozzo, Timothy Bateson as Lucky and Mark Mileham as the Boy. It struck a chord within me and I wanted to know more about the writer and his work. I was twelve years old. When I was in my final year at Castleknock College, a Dublin boarding school, a group of us students got permission to attend a production of Godot at the Gate Theatre Dublin, performed by UCD Dramsoc, University College Dublin’s drama society. This production, the first I had seen on stage, was to have a lot of personal resonances for me. It was directed by Máirín Cassidy, who was the older sister of one of my school friends. Lucky was played by Chris O’Neill, who later directed me as Lucky in my first Godot, which also played at the Gate. Chris went on, before his untimely death, to perform many Beckett roles and a one-man Beckett show Endwords. Vladimir was played by Colm Ó Briain who directed my one-man Beckett show I’ll Go On, which was produced by the Gate Theatre. Colm went on in the late 1960s to found the Project Arts Centre where I was to play in two Beckett productions.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

When I went to UCD I joined Dramsoc where I played in my first Beckett play – Clov in Endgame in 1970. This played not only in UCD (in the room where Gerard Manley Hopkins died) but also at Beckett’s alma mater, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), which that year hosted the Universities’ Drama Festival. It was there that I met Michael Colgan, who was an active member of Trinity Players. We became friends (at one stage he was my agent!) and shared an interest in, and affection for, Beckett. Some thirteen years later he became Director of the Gate Theatre, Dublin, and was responsible for producing a number of productions of Beckett with which I was involved. The appetite for Beckett among the students of my college days was quite intense. He was, for many of us, the most interesting contemporary playwright. His plays had few characters and relatively simple sets so were not too difficult to put on – though very difficult to do well. But students love that. Ours was not the first Endgame to be put on by Dramsoc, let alone other universities, and Maynooth did a wonderful student Godot which also featured in the 1970 Universities’ Drama Festival. Much has been written about the relationship between Beckett and Ireland and the reception of his work in the country of his birth. I think it is important, in order to get a rounded picture, to hear many voices on the subject. It seems to me that there was a minority in Ireland during the 1960s who had a big interest in Beckett and his work. The Pike production of Godot in 1955 certainly brought his name much more to the fore and productions of Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape in 1959 and Happy Days with the great Marie Kean in 1963 followed on very shortly after their first productions in England and the USA. Jack MacGowran’s one-man compilation End of Day at the 1962 Dublin Theatre Festival and his later Beginning to End at the tiny Lantern Theatre in 1965 whetted the appetite further. The Abbey Theatre began to programme Beckett in their smaller auditorium, the Peacock (where Beckett once made his only stage appearance as Don Diègue in Le Kid, a parody of Corneille’s Le Cid, written by Georges Pelorson with assistance from Beckett in 1931). Play was performed in 1967, followed by the world premiere in its original language, English, of Come and Go in 1968. Finally on the

Practice in Focus


main Abbey stage, Godot was performed in 1969 with Peter O’Toole and Donal McCann as Vladimir and Estragon. It was a big critical and box office success and helped to expand Beckett’s reputation in the country of his birth. It also coincided with the Nobel Prize. Productions of Beckett’s plays (and there were only six plays at the time, excluding the two mimes and Breath) became more frequent and were no longer the preserve of University Dramatic Societies. Beckett had finally ‘arrived’. During the 1970s and 1980s Beckett wrote eight more plays for the stage. Theatre companies such as Druid, Stage One, Focus, The Loft, the Irish Theatre Company, Cork Theatre Company, The Gate, The Taibhdhearc (with a production in Irish of Godot in 1971) as well as the Abbey put on productions of Beckett’s plays, bringing his name and work to a younger generation who no longer found him obscure or difficult or – God bless the mark – absurd. I well recall his amazement when I told him that I had read extracts from the novel Malone Dies in the Book on One series on RTÉ Radio in 1986. James Joyce in his Gas from a Burner of 1912 says: ‘This lovely land that always sent / Her writers and artists to banishment’ (Joyce 1969: 465–8). The years from the 1920s up to the 1970s were not happy days for many writers in Ireland. When the Irish Free State came into existence in 1922, a clergy-ridden censoriousness developed which culminated in the Censorship of Publications Act of 1929. Many writers found their work banned for being ‘unwholesome literature’, Beckett among them. More Pricks than Kicks was allegedly banned on the basis of its title alone, even though it is derived from St Paul’s Acts of the Apostles. Watt and Molloy were also banned. Beckett wrote a piece for The Bookman in 1934 called ‘Censorship in the Saorstat’ which pillories the Censorship of Publications Board. It was not published until 1983 (see Beckett 2001: 84–8). In 1958 the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, refused to say a votive mass for the opening of the Dublin Theatre Festival (why was he asked!) because an adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses was to be performed. The play was withdrawn and Beckett, along with Seán O’Casey, withdrew permission to stage works of theirs which were scheduled.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

In a way the 1960s changed everything. When I was at UCD in the late 1960s I was able to buy my first copy of Ulysses, which Penguin had published in paperback. Curiously, Ulysses had never been banned in Ireland, perhaps because the censors couldn’t get a copy or because it was too long or difficult for them to read. But it was not easily acquired. You had to get it ‘under the counter’ so to speak. By the late 1960s it could be bought in most bookshops. The wave of liberality which swept across much of the Western world lapped tantalizingly at Ireland’s shores. Though many of the old taboos remained, certainly the arts in general, and literature and theatre in particular, blossomed much more freely than hitherto. Certain subjects which were previously completely unacceptable began to be discussed openly. In all aspects of life, after the Second World War and the conservative 1950s, the 1960s raised the bar (and the skirts) to new heights of freedom of expression. Ireland may have come later to this than Britain or the USA but the wedge was in and the door was opening. After my university days I determined to be a professional actor. One of the first plays I found myself in was Endgame, again playing Clov. This was in the Project Arts Centre situated at the time (1971) in Lr Abbey Street, just across from the Abbey Theatre. It was a basement area which had been transformed into a gallery for painting and sculpture. The Project originally featured visual art but drama gained a foothold in 1968 with Tom Hickey in a play by Lee Gallaher. (Tom was later to play Vladimir to my Estragon in the original Gate Theatre production of Godot.) Endgame was produced by Chris O’Neill, who had founded a fringe company called Four-in-One Players. (The name came from the fact that there were four actors in each of the plays we played in repertory – No Quarter by Barry Bermange and Endgame.) It went on in July 1971 with Alan Devlin as Hamm, myself as Clov, Gerry Walsh (later replaced by David Glendining) as Nagg and Colette Proctor as Nell. It was directed by radio producer and later film director John Lynch. The following year I played with the same company in my first Godot, as Lucky. The director was Chris O’Neill.

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This Godot began its life in the tiny Lartigue Theatre in Listowel, Co. Kerry, during the second Writers’ Week in 1972. It also toured to the Gorey Arts Festival founded by the painter Paul Funge where another performance that week was MacGowran’s Beginning to End. We played too at Players’ Theatre in TCD and finally at the Gate for a week, my first performance in that theatre which was to have such significance for me in my future Beckett work. But before the later Gate days, there was the Irish Theatre Company and the Abbey. The Irish Theatre Company (ITC) was set up by the government in 1974 as a company that would mainly tour nationally but also, from time to time, perform in Dublin. In 1981 the Artistic Director Christopher Fitz-Simon asked me if I would be interested in playing Vladimir in a production of Godot that was scheduled for early 1982 to be directed by Ben Barnes. I naturally said yes and rehearsals began in early January 1982 when snow was general all over Ireland. We opened in Limerick and toured to venues North and South. We ended up in the Project Arts Centre in Dublin where a never-to-beforgotten incident occurred on the last night there. Godot arrived. What happened was this: Kevin Flood, who was a wonderful Pozzo, declared on his entrance ‘I present myself: Godot.’ Ciarán Hinds (who was playing Estragon) and I looked at each other, terrified, and changed the emphasis in our lines like ‘Not at all!’ and ‘You’re not Mr Godot, sir!’ to which Kevin, in a terrifying voice, replied ‘I am Godot!’ (Silence) ‘Godot!’ A long silence ensued. Then Kevin, realizing what he’d said, said in an extremely loud voice ‘I am Pozzo! POZZO!!’ etc. We found him in bits in the dressing room at the interval. We lied, reassuring him that no one had noticed. That was the night that Godot finally turned up. Two years later Ben Barnes asked me to play Clov in Endgame in an Abbey Theatre production in their Peacock Theatre, where Beckett himself performed briefly in 1931. Although the San Quentin Drama Workshop presented Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame as a double bill in the Peacock in 1980 (a production overseen by Beckett himself) this was the first Abbey production of Endgame. Godfrey Quigley played


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Hamm. Godfrey at the top of his form was a marvellously virile actor – big, with great presence and a dominant personality. He was a bit like an old actor-manager; an Irish Wolfit if you like (indeed Donald Wolfit once played Hamm on radio). But Godfrey went through the horrors at times with the lines and the links from section to section. One night he skipped about six pages and I had to gently get him back. The section which was cut contained the business with the telescope, the insecticide and the three-legged dog. We couldn’t have let those bits go with what was to come. I can still see the sweating forehead, the desperate attempt to get it all back on track and the relief when he finally did so. One of the features of this production was the set by Bronwen Casson (Lewis Casson and Sybil Thorndike’s granddaughter) which had iron walls and an iron door into Clov’s kitchen which clanged and reverberated each time Clov shut it behind him. A microphone was placed near the door and a marvellous echo effect was produced. The drawback of the set, for me, was that the floor was strewn with sand (‘from the shore’) (Beckett 1958: 19). Pushing weighty Godfrey Quigley in a chair with castors on such a floor, in such a state, was all I could manage (more than I could!). This production was performed with the Irish premiere of Rockaby with Marie Kean as W. In 1985 it was revived with a short run at the Peacock followed by four nights in the Players’ Theatre at Trinity College Dublin before travelling to Athens and Agrinion in Greece as part of Athens’ EU City of Culture celebrations. Shortly after Michael Colgan became Director of the Gate Theatre in 1983, he wrote to me asking if I would be prepared to perform a one-man show of Beckett’s writings. We had both been to see Jack MacGowran’s one-man Beginning to End in the Gaiety Theatre in 1971 as part of that theatre’s centenary celebrations and were big fans of Beckett’s work. I had acquired a few of the novels and plays when at university in the late 1960s. At first I hesitated – MacGowran’s show was still a potent memory and I was very familiar with his recording MacGowran Speaking Beckett. When I eventually decided to take the plunge one of the scenarios we considered was using MacGowran’s text of Beginning to End. Michael Colgan wrote to Beckett to enquire about

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permission to do such a show. Beckett was happy to give us the nod but said that we’d have to get Jack’s widow Gloria’s permission if that was the direction we wanted to take. She wanted to be involved to a degree that didn’t suit us so we went down a different route. Beckett in a letter to Michael had said: ‘There remains the possibility of a new one-man show on the same lines but with a different title and a different choice of texts.’1 That was enough for us. From then on it was just a question of getting the text of the show together. Colm Ó Briain was invited to direct and the artist Robert Ballagh to design – his first stage design. We met and agreed to read or re-read the Beckett canon. After some time I suggested that we concentrate on the three novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable. Here, I felt, was more material than we’d ever need for a show. I met my old friend Gerry Dukes at a Patrick Kavanagh weekend in Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan and asked him if he’d like to come on board and help me select the texts. He was more than happy to do so and we met at regular intervals to work on the script. By the middle of 1985 we had a final script and three months later, 23 September 1985, I’ll Go On had its first performance at the Gate Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival – the same festival from which Beckett had withdrawn his two mimes Act Without Words I and II and a reading of All that Fall, in 1958. I’ll Go On played a latenight slot (11.15 pm) for a week and was well received. It went on to play sixty-six further performances in 1986 in five countries. At the time of writing (early 2015), it has played 258 performances in twelve countries, on four continents. In April 1986 Beckett reached the age of eighty. A ‘colloque’ was organized in Paris to celebrate ‘the awful occasion’. There were lectures and symposia and performances from many countries – but none from Ireland. Michael Colgan was incensed by this and somehow arranged for I’ll Go On to be scheduled for two performances at the wonderfully titled Maison des Cultures du Monde in the Alliance Francaise building on the Boulevard Raspail – the very street where Godot had its first performance in 1953. This led to our first meeting with Beckett on 5 April 1986. Michael and I went over to Paris to see the theatre and meet the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

people there and Beckett had agreed to meet us in the PLM Hotel, across the road from his apartment on the Boulevard Saint-Jacques. We arrived half an hour early knowing how punctilious Beckett was about time. At the appointed time suddenly he was there in the hotel lobby looking around. We didn’t see him arrive – he was suddenly there as if he had just materialized. Michael went over and introduced himself and then beckoned me over. I shook Beckett’s hand and muttered some sort of greeting. The first words he said to me were ‘I suppose it’s raining in Dublin as usual.’ He brought us into the Petit Café where we shared a beer and strong coffee. He offered me one of his Davidoff cheroots saying: ‘Do you share this vice?’ I couldn’t resist and smoked my way through one. We gave him gifts of a bottle of Irish whiskey and Robert Ballagh’s book of photographs of Dublin, and showed him the set designs for, and photographs of, I’ll Go On. He seemed intrigued. Michael said that if he’d like to see the dress rehearsal, he would make sure there were no journalists present. Beckett took up his white Davidoff cheroot packet and carefully wrote the date and time of the dress rehearsal on it. When the day came some three weeks later we got a message saying that he wouldn’t be coming. (‘Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won’t come this evening but surely tomorrow.’) I was somewhat relieved. It would have been like having Shakespeare watch you play Hamlet. The meetings with Beckett in April 1986 (we met him again the morning after the first Paris performance) led to further separate meetings in Paris with Michael and with myself. When Michael said he’d like to produce Godot at the Gate with Walter Asmus directing and Louis le Brocquy designing Beckett was delighted. This led to the 1988 production of Godot at the Gate which in turn led to the 1991 Beckett Festival at the Gate where all nineteen of Beckett’s stage plays were performed (except Eleutheria, which Beckett didn’t want translated, published or performed). The festival was presented in association with Trinity College and RTÉ and also featured exhibitions, lectures and seminars. It was a spectacular success featuring such eminent Beckett stalwarts as Jean Martin, David Warrilow, James Knowlson, Katharine Worth and Christopher Ricks and work by visual artists like Avigdor

Practice in Focus


Arikha, Robert Ryman, Brian Bourke, Stanley William Hayter, Jasper Johns and Louis le Brocquy. In July 1988 Tom Hickey and I met with Walter Asmus for the first time. We were to play Didi and Gogo in Godot but until Walter met us we didn’t know who would play what role. After some time reading different bits of dialogue together, Walter said: ‘You (Tom) play Vladimir and you (me) play Estragon.’ And so it happened that I was to play my third role in Godot. The production ran for a month. When the 1991 Beckett Festival came along I reverted to the role of Vladimir (Tom was not available) with Johnny Murphy, who had played the role in three other productions, coming in as Estragon. I also played Clov in Endgame. This version of the Gate Godot (with Alan Stanford as Pozzo and Stephen Brennan as Lucky – as in 1988) would be revived five times at the Gate and tour to sixty-three different venues in six countries including a forty-venue, one night only, tour of Ireland in 2008 – playing in every Irish county in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. In Melbourne, Toronto and China (Beijing and Shanghai) Lucky was played by, respectively, Pat Kinevane, Donal O’Kelly and Conor Lovett. We had eleven boys over the twenty years. The eightweek, thirty-two-counties, ‘one night only’ tour of Godot in 2008 was extremely successful. Every venue was sold out. Some indeed were tiny like Manorhamilton and Clifden but there were big theatres too. It was very interesting to sense the different reactions to the play in the various locations. In some venues in Northern Ireland there seemed to be generally less of a reaction during the play but an equally big response at the end. It is curious that practically all the venues played by the Pike Theatre, which toured the first Irish production in 1956, were also on our itinerary fifty-two years later. I wonder how many saw both productions. Our last performance was in Enniskillen, where Beckett went to school, on 26 October 2008. In November 2000 the cast of the Gate Godot, with Sam McGovern as the Boy, filmed the play in a warehouse in Lough Egish in Co. Monaghan as part of the Beckett on Film series. It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg over a six-day period when it rained for much


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of the time. Much of the dialogue had to be overdubbed because of the noise of the rain. This same cast recorded a radio version of the play for RTÉ the following year. In 1996 the Gate Beckett Festival played at the Lincoln Centre Festival in New York. This time, as well as playing in Godot and Endgame I also played Willie in Happy Days (with Rosaleen Linehan as Winnie), which had played at the Gate a few months earlier and would, later that year, play at the Almeida Theatre in London. It was directed by Karel Reisz. That same year, the ninetieth anniversary of Beckett’s birth, gave me the opportunity of playing in Krapp’s Last Tape directed by Sarah Jane Scaife in a double bill with Company at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College as part of their Beckett 90 celebrations. It later toured to Aarhus in Denmark. In 1999 the Gate Beckett Festival played at the Barbican in London where I again played in Godot, Endgame and Happy Days. Endgame at the Beckett festivals was directed by Antoni Libera with Alan Stanford as Hamm, Seamus Forde and Bill Golding as Nagg, and Daphne Carroll and Pauline Flanagan as Nell. Of course all through these years when Beckett was such a big part of my life I was also playing in many non-Beckett roles on stage, radio, TV and film. But somehow the ‘Beckett actor’ tag seemed to cling to me much as it did to Jack MacGowran a generation before. It’s a peculiar phenomenon. Whenever I was interviewed, I tried to deny that I was a ‘Beckett actor’ or any other type of actor. I was simply an actor. But after years of resistance I began to realize that people like to know you for something specific and I learned to accept it. After all, it has played a big part in my life. When on tour with a Beckett show, whether a one-man or a Godot, Endgame or whatever, there are sometimes question-and-answer sessions with the audience afterwards, especially in the USA. I am often asked at these about the difference in preparing for and playing Beckett compared with other authors. I always reply that there is no difference in approach. You rehearse the script as you have it with the actors and director and take it from there. Of course each author will

Practice in Focus


have a different feel and style. But you must never lose sight of the fact that you are there to entertain each audience. Beckett is reputed to have said, when someone said that his way would be boring for an audience, ‘Bore them to death! Bore the pants off them!’ (see Whitelaw 1995: 145). If this is true, he is wrong. You must never bore an audience. Once they are bored you’ve lost them. ‘Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing’ (Beckett 1958: 51). In a letter to his US director Alan Schneider he said: ‘if they did it my way they’d empty the theatre’ (Beckett 1998: 8). Of course Beckett had a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour and I would take all reported comment, true or not, with a big grain of salt. He was punctilious in rehearsal and was quite willing to change or cut something if it didn’t work. But he knew what he wanted and worked unceasingly to get it. And he was usually right. In 2010 I adapted the novel Watt for the stage as a one-man show at the suggestion of Michael Colgan. The brief was for a fifty- to fiftyfive-minute show. After many drafts I finally arrived at a script which I and the director Tom Creed could work on in the rehearsal room. It premiered at the 2010 Dublin Theatre Festival as part of the BPM (Beckett/Pinter/Mamet) Festival at the Gate. It played some months later at the Under the Radar festival in New York and later toured in the US with a new production of Endgame in which I again appeared as Clov, replacing David Bradley who had played it in Dublin and was unavailable for the tour. This time Hamm was played by Owen Roe with Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan as Nagg and Nell. The director was Alan Stanford. Watt later played at the Perth International Theatre Festival, London’s Barbican and the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012. I’ll Go On played at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2013 and at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles and the Ruhrfestspiele in Germany in 2014. My own memories of other Irish productions of Beckett began in the late 1960s with the above mentioned UCD Dramsoc production of Godot at the Gate. Other Godots I remember include a memorable one by the Guinness Players at the Rupert Guinness Hall and one by


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the Hacklers of Cavan, directed by the late writer Dermot Healy, at the Peacock in 1980. I also recall two all-female Godots – but played as men.2 The irony of boys in Shakespeare’s day playing women’s roles was not lost on me. To my great regret I missed Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe’s Godot in Irish, Ag Fanacht le Godot, directed by Alan Simpson in 1971 in Galway. I also missed it when it played at the Peacock for two nights in 1972 (a woman won out over Beckett I regret to say; how he would have approved). And I was on tour when the Schiller Theater of Berlin’s production, directed by Beckett, played at the Abbey for one night only in 1977. In the early 1970s I had been a member of the RTÉ Players, a radio company of actors who performed plays and serials. They had recorded all the Beckett radio plays since the late 1960s but none during my time in the company. Many years later I directed All That Fall for RTÉ radio with Pegg Monahan as Maddie and Aiden Grenell as Dan Rooney. I have always enjoyed radio acting and since Beckett wrote a number of plays for radio I was pleased to be involved in a number of recordings of Beckett pieces for that medium. On the occasion of Beckett’s eightieth birthday in 1986 I recorded a programme ‘Beckett at 80’ for RTÉ radio. This consisted of selections of poems and prose pieces somewhat akin to the prose and poetry readings I have often done live. The following year I played Henry in Embers directed by Willie Styles for RTÉ. Ada was played by Geraldine Plunkett. And in 1988 I played the same role for the Beckett Festival of Radio Plays, directed by Everett Frost. Ada, on this occasion, was played by Billie Whitelaw. This latter production was recorded at the BBC studios in London. My two abiding memories of this are the constant retakes that were necessary due to the rumbling of underground trains and Billie’s nervousness of trying to get every syllable and pause as near to what Beckett (to whom she had been on the phone the previous night) had indicated. It made me very sympathetic to Brenda Bruce’s ordeal during the rehearsals of the original British production of Happy Days in 1962 (see Knowlson 1996: 501). Speaking of which, I am reminded of a limerick quoted to

Practice in Focus


me by Alan Mandell who said he got it from Beckett. Alan told me that Beckett said it was the trigger for Beckett’s writing Happy Days: There was a young man from Port Said Who fell down a shit-hole and died. His unfortunate mother Fell down another And now they’re interred side by side.

It’s even better when spoken. In 1990, for a tribute to Beckett in RTÉ’s Sunday Miscellany radio programme, I read The Capital of the Ruins, which Beckett had written in 1946 for Radio Éireann, as it then was. This is an account of the Irish Red Cross hospital in Saint-Lô in Normandy where Beckett worked for some months after the Second World War. It was to have been broadcast in 1946 but, so far as is known, never was. Kate Minogue (who directed the radio version of the Gate Godot) and I went to Paris in 2003 to record people who had worked with Beckett for an RTÉ radio documentary ‘Beckett in Paris’. We interviewed, among others, Jean Martin, Eléanore Hirt, Michael Lonsdale, Barbara Bray, Avigdor Arikha and Anne Atik. Their reminiscences on Beckett were very revealing of the innate decency and kindness of the man. A festival to honour the American composer Morton Feldman was put on in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in 2010. Special permission was granted for a concert performance of Beckett’s radio play Words and Music, for which Feldman had written the music for the Beckett Festival of Radio Plays. I played Words and Owen Roe played Croak. It was of particular interest to see performed, and hear live, the music which is essential to this piece. Beckett’s cousin John Beckett wrote the music for the original BBC production but, for whatever reason, and I have heard a few, he withdrew his score. I am often asked about the vexed question of performing Beckett’s prose on stage. Beckett famously once wrote in a letter to his American publisher Barney Rosset: ‘If we can’t keep our genres more or less


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

distinct […] we might as well go home and lie down’ (Beckett 2014: 64). Yet he regularly permitted stage or radio presentations of his prose work to people such as Jack MacGowran, Pat Magee, Billie Whitelaw, David Warrilow and indeed myself and others, not least the late Peter Caffrey who, having asked permission late in the day for a one-man show, got a reply from Beckett which read: ‘Had you asked me in the first place – as you should have done – for permission to do this “hodge-podge”, I would have refused, as you no doubt surmised at the time. Now you ask me to bow before the “fait accompli”! Ah well, go ahead. Yours, Sam Beckett’ (Cohn 1980: 286 n.1). Later Caffrey played Pozzo in a production of Godot in the Project Arts Centre. Vincent McCabe, who played Krapp under Jim Sheridan’s direction in 1971, also played a one-man Beckett show in the early 1970s. As I have stated elsewhere, Beckett’s first-person prose cries out to be spoken aloud. It is very much a monologue. Just as A Piece of Monologue is as much a piece of prose as a play (whatever that is when it’s at home), so too the four stories and Three Novels are first-person monologues written in a form which almost demands that they be spoken and heard. As Beckett himself said in ‘Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce’ regarding Finnegans Wake: ‘It is not to be read – or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to’ (Beckett 2001: 27). So too with much of Beckett’s prose. Take the case of Lessness, a difficult piece from the late 1960s. It has been given a stage performance by Olwen Fouéré, who has given a number of memorable Beckett performances. There also exists a recording of Beckett himself reading the opening fragments, and sounding a number of beats for each pause. This recording was made for Martin Esslin, who directed a radio performance of the piece in 1971 with six voices: Harold Pinter, Denys Hawthorne, Patrick Magee, Donal Donnelly, Nicol Williamson and Leonard Fenton. I am often asked if the Irish voice is more suited to Beckett than any other; if Irish actors are more suited to Beckett than other actors. My reply is always the same. I would rather see a better non-Irish production of a Beckett play than a lesser Irish one. I have seen many

Practice in Focus


productions of Beckett’s plays and all that ever matters to me is how they affect me. And, indeed, some technically less good productions have affected me more than some technically better ones. Having said all that, there is something quintessentially Irish about the way Beckett uses language. And not only quintessentially Irish, but quintessentially Dublin. Like Joyce and Flann O’Brien (although the latter wasn’t born in Dublin) there is a smell of Dublin off his work. The first-person stories and novels are redolent of it. The English-language versions of Beckett’s prose and dramatic works are couched in a Hiberno-English idiom. Unlike Joyce, whose works are set in Dublin and where place names abound, Beckett, as his works develop, mentions place names less and less. The universality of both writers’ work is without question but if you know Dublin well or have grown up in that city, you know, more often than not, the locations to which he is referring. Even in the plays there are references here and there to Dublin or Irish locations as well as French and English ones. But the dialect is nearly always Dublin. His translation of Robert Pinget’s play La Manivelle as The Old Tune is pure Dublinese. And it’s difficult for me to hear in my mind’s ear Godot or Endgame without a Dublin voice. It’s in the writing. Perhaps I’m biased but there it is. So in the end, it all comes down to the writing. Beckett was a very great writer, and it is the interpretation of that writing, whether in our mind’s ear when reading his work or hearing it spoken by actors, that matters. I would always suggest that actors play Beckett in their own voice, their own accent. They must make it their own. Nevertheless, the voice in the writing is insistent: it cannot escape its Dublin roots. As the narrator of The Calmative says: ‘there was never any city but the one. […] I only know the city of my childhood, I must have seen the other, but unbelieving’ (Beckett 1995: 62).


The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals: Tensions between the Local and the Global David Clare

Under the directorship of Michael Colgan, Dublin’s Gate Theatre has mounted three festivals celebrating the work of Foxrock-born Samuel Beckett. These include the 1991 Beckett Festival, which featured productions of all nineteen of his stage plays;1 the 2006 Beckett Centenary Festival, which marked the playwright’s 100th birthday with productions of nine of his stage plays and a stage adaptation of one of his television plays, Eh Joe; and the 2010 Beckett Pinter Mamet Festival, which featured performances of Endgame and Barry McGovern’s stage adaptation of the novel Watt. As this essay demonstrates, these festivals both resisted and collaborated with the forces of globalization.2 On the one hand, by emphasizing the frequently overlooked Irish elements in Beckett’s work, the Gate combated the spread of an international, deterritorialized, homogeneous, Anglophone culture. On the other hand, the theatre’s mounting of these festivals involved key elements associated with the economic globalization of theatre: branding, an emphasis on international touring, festivalization and celebrity casting. One of the greatest legacies of the Gate’s three Beckett festivals is the degree to which they altered popular perceptions of Beckett’s relationship with his native country. By subtly and cleverly highlighting the obviously Irish aspects of Beckett’s drama, the festival productions forced audiences and critics to re-examine plays that are frequently described as ‘ahistorical’ and set ‘nowhere’. As Michael Colgan has


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

admitted, the first festival grew out of his belief that there was a need to reassert Beckett’s Irishness;3 and the Gate’s agenda in this regard has never been lost on critics. A review of the 1991 Beckett Festival in the The Times of London featured the sub-headline: ‘Ireland is reclaiming Samuel Beckett as one of her own’ (Wolf 1991a: 15). The reviewer for The Times, Matt Wolf, was not hostile to these efforts by the Gate, nor were other critics at the time.4 Gerry Colgan of The Irish Times believed that the Irish touch given to the plays staged at the 1991 festival would ‘ensure that Beckett […] will become part of our living theatrical heritage’ (1991b: 8). And, after watching a revival of the seminal production of Waiting for Godot staged at the 1991 and 2006 festivals (starring Barry McGovern as Vladimir, Johnny Murphy as Estragon, Stephen Brennan as Lucky and Alan Stanford as Pozzo), Karen Fricker of the Guardian enthused that ‘the Hibernicisms in the script leap out when they play it’ (2003: 20).5 Further to this, many critics have noted that the use of Irish accents in the festival productions drew special attention to the fact that Beckett frequently employs a subtle Hiberno-English in the Englishlanguage versions of his plays. From 1991 onwards, the Gate’s decision to perform most of the plays with Irish accents – and with wry, dark, ‘Irish’ humour – softened the resistance of Dublin audiences to Beckett’s supposedly morbid and difficult drama. Although Irish productions between the 1950s and 1980s had attempted to emphasize the Irishness of the playwright’s work, Gerry Colgan (in an Irish Times review of the 1991 festival) noted that Beckett’s plays had often been greeted by bewilderment and ‘retreating feet’ in Dublin; he was therefore relieved that those attending the 1991 festival seemed pleased to discover that they could ‘understand’ Beckett’s work quite well (1991b: 8).6 The fact that most – though certainly not all – previous productions were less successful at connecting with Dublin audiences is a tribute to the skill with which the Gate exploited the Irish elements in Beckett’s plays. The Irish accents used in the Gate Beckett festivals had the further effect of highlighting the very local Dublin references often included by Beckett in his supposedly de-nationalized plays. At the 2006 and

The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals


2010 festivals, I personally spoke with several audience members who marvelled at the sheer number of allusions to Dublin and Wicklow landmarks in the plays.7 Examples from the plays staged at those two festivals include Kapp and Peterson’s, the Grand Canal, Dún Laoghaire pier, Croghan Mountain, Miss Wade’s and Croker’s Acres, as well as – from the adapted television play Eh Joe – St Stephen’s Green, the White Rock at Killiney and Avoca Handweavers.8 There were also the wider Irish references, including the allusions to camogie, Bishop Berkeley, Connemara, Connaught and – arguably – Cobh. (Seán Kennedy, building on an observation by Chris Ackerley and Stan Gontarski, has compellingly argued that the place name Kov in Endgame is a sly reference to the town in Co. Cork from which so many Irish emigrants set sail (Kennedy 2010a: 11; Kennedy 2012: 112).)9 Those who attended the 1991 festival would also have spotted the description of the old Harcourt Street Station and the reference to the Irish-sounding structure, Foley’s Folly, in That Time.10 Likewise, when A Piece of Monologue is performed in an Irish accent (as it was by Stephen Rea at the 1991 festival and by Stephen Brennan in the touring version of that festival), the line ‘turns wick low’ seems unmistakably like a reference to County Wicklow (Beckett 1984a: 266, 267).11 This is especially true for audience members who recognize the Speaker’s descriptions of Redford Protestant Cemetery in Greystones (where both of Beckett’s parents are buried). Other indications that this play is set in Wicklow include the descriptions of pelting rain and the grey light and the reference to larches – trees which, as Eoin O’Brien has pointed out, were ‘beloved’ by Beckett and which grow in great numbers in the Wicklow valleys, as well as near his childhood home in Foxrock (O’Brien 1986: 57).12 While the Gate succeeded in highlighting Beckett’s Irishness at a time when – in some quarters – it was in doubt,13 they wisely chose not to overly Hibernicize his work, as Alan Simpson did when he added Irishisms to the Godot script for the play’s Irish premiere at the Pike Theatre in Dublin in 1955.14 In Eoin O’Brien’s essay in the 1991 Beckett Festival programme, he emphasizes that Beckett was an unambiguously


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Irish writer, but that he was also a ‘true European’ who belonged to ‘the world’ (O’Brien 1991: 13). This clearly mirrors the Gate Theatre’s overall attitude. Indeed, Colgan once told a New York Times journalist that ‘Beckett’s ours, but he’s also the world’s’ (quoted in Wolf 1991b: H6).15 In keeping with this broader perspective, the Gate – as John Harrington has pointed out – avoided any accusations of parochialism at the 1991 festival by employing European directors such as Walter Asmus and Antoni Libera, and by featuring international speakers and actors at the festival’s off-site public lectures and performances held at Trinity College Dublin (2007: 136).16 The productions included in the 2006 and 2010 festivals also prove that the Gate was not interested in portraying Beckett as narrowly Irish in his concerns. While many Irish theatre practitioners were involved in these later festivals, Colgan also hired directors from England, Scotland and Canada, and actors from England, Scotland, Wales and the United States.17 What is more, if Colgan was only interested in stressing an Irish reading of these plays, then he would have been careful to use Irish actors for the roles that seem most ‘Irish’ (based on a character’s use of Hiberno-English and their repeated references to Irish landmarks). For the 2006 festival and for touring versions of the two other festivals, Colgan chose to hire the English actor John Hurt to play one of the most seemingly Irish of Beckett’s dramatic roles – Krapp from Krapp’s Last Tape – and, while this decision may have been motivated (at least in part) by commercial concerns, it also reveals Colgan’s openness to non-Irish readings of seemingly Irish plays.18 In addition to casting non-Irish actors in arguably Irish parts, the Gate also (thankfully) made ‘no attempt to locate the productions in any specifically Irish landscape’ (McMullan and McTighe 2014: n.p.). The Gate clearly chose to hold Beckett’s Irishness loosely in these festival productions, because they recognized that Beckett’s work often simultaneously addresses both Irish and wider European concerns (Kennedy 2012: 109). Obvious examples of this include five of the plays staged at both the 1991 and 2006 festivals. Seán Kennedy has shown that Endgame (which was also staged at the 2010 festival) wrestles with

The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals


the European search for meaning ‘post-Auschwitz’, but is also an Irish Big House drama filled with images of the Famine and concerned with the fall of the Protestant Ascendancy (2012: 105–120).19 Waiting for Godot is, as Andrew Gibson argues, ‘rooted in life under Vichy’, with its experiences of deprivation and interminable waiting, but it is also an extended comment on Anglo-Irish politics (with the legacy of the Famine once again looming large) (2010: 185–97).20 Play (1963) is, on one level, Beckett’s harrowing take on the English drawing-room farce, but, on another, it is a work which places Beckett in a tradition of Irish Protestant playwrights from Farquhar to Shaw, who observe the English with an outsider’s eye, exposing snobberies and hypocrisies. The three women in Come and Go have been related by critics to the Three Graces from Greek mythology, the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the three mothers in Fritz Lang’s film M; however, they also suggest three gossiping Church of Ireland spinsters remembering their time in the exclusive Morehampton House School (known locally as ‘Miss Wade’s’) on Dublin’s southside. Footfalls has been linked to the psychological theories of Carl Jung and Pierre Janet, and the art of Antonello De Messina and Edvard Munch; however, as David Lloyd has shown, it is also an example of Irish Protestant Gothic (2010: 43–7).21 So how are theatre practitioners supposed to simultaneously communicate both the Irish and the wider European layers of these plays in performance? If the Irishness is overly emphasized through the use of strong accents or by placing the characters in a recognizable Irish landscape, then the more universal message is obscured. That said, if a production is ‘deracinated’, studiously avoiding any hint of Irishness, then part of the play’s meaning is lost. The Gate is to be commended for attempting to strike a balance. While the Gate have been careful not to overly stress the Irish angle and have (in Trish McTighe’s words) avoided ‘trading on Irish cultural clichés’, their decision to use Irish accents in many of the productions and to draw out the ‘Irish’ humour in Beckett’s scripts did result in a contradictory relationship with the forces of globalization (2013b: 167).


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

By showing that Beckett’s plays use Hiberno-English (often to comedic effect), contain many Irish references, and tackle specifically Irish concerns (including Irish political marginalization), the Gate combated the spread of a homogeneous, Anglophone, globalized culture. When the English-language versions of Beckett’s plays are performed with American TV or English RP accents and are deliberately set ‘nowhere’, they risk being absorbed into – or, at least, failing to stand out from – the globalized culture being promoted by the Anglophone world’s two main cultural players: America and England. It could also be argued that such ‘placeless’ productions struggle to convey the economic and cultural marginalization of important Beckett characters. (This is why artistically successful productions in these countries often use politically charged and inherently dramatic settings to indicate the subaltern status of Beckett’s characters; examples include productions of Godot re-set in prisons, on rural highways, or even on the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.) By using Irish accents, highlighting Irish political subtexts, and depicting characters such as Gogo and Didi as put-upon Irish vagabonds, the Gate reminds audiences that Beckett hails from a marginal culture with a history of political and socio-economic subordination to world powers rather than one of the dominant cultures helping to drive the move towards economic and cultural globalization. Of course, there is a serious danger associated with performing Beckett’s plays in an obviously ‘Irish’ way in an increasingly global world: his dramatic output could simply be treated as part of the theatrical ‘brand’ known as the ‘Irish play’, as described by Patrick Lonergan in his important study Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era (2009). This danger is especially real when the Gate festivals and/or their productions are taken abroad. The 1991 Beckett Festival was remounted at Lincoln Center in New York in 1996 and at the Barbican in London in 1999, and the 2006 Centenary Festival was mounted at the Barbican just before its Dublin run and was remounted, in a modified form, at the Parade Theatre in Sydney in 2007 and Lincoln Center in 2008.22 The two Beckett productions

The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals


from the 2010 festival were staged in venues across America in 2011.23 (Krapp’s Last Tape, starring John Hurt, also played New York and Washington, DC that year.) Individual or grouped productions from all three festivals have been staged across the world, from Edinburgh to Shanghai. When these productions are brought to foreign countries, the Irish accents, the dark humour, the stories of underdogs and heroic failure, the family tensions in works such as Endgame, Footfalls and Rockaby, and the Anglo-Irish political subtext in scenes like those involving an English-accented Pozzo (as played by Alan Stanford) and an Irish-accented Lucky (as played by Stephen Brennan) often help the plays to conform to preconceived notions regarding what makes an ‘Irish play’. Contemporary global capitalism is often a subtle game of giving consumers something that they are already familiar with but with a hint of novelty, and, as Lonergan has shown, this applies to theatre just as much as fast food. International theatregoers want to know what to expect when they spend money on expensive theatre tickets; therefore, they begin to patronize ‘brands’ of plays. The popularity of the ‘Irish play’ brand has resulted in a situation where Irish playwrights and theatre companies seem to build scripts or productions for export – arguably a wise move economically, given the small size of the Irish theatre market (Lonergan 2009). While it seems unlikely that the Gate have deliberately shaped their Beckett productions to conform to the ‘Irish play’ brand (especially since that brand only really began to take shape in the late 1990s), they have certainly benefitted, in their later tours, from the popularity of that brand. Likewise, as various critics have contended, the Gate have happily cooperated with efforts by the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland to promote their Beckett productions as ‘Irish cultural export[s]’ or Irish ‘cultural […] commodity[ies]’ (Johnson 2014: 51; McTighe 2013b: 158–9). What is more, like other theatre-makers who happily use the ‘business strategies that were first developed by multinational corporations’ (Lonergan 2009: 16), the Gate have shown an awareness of branding in a more general sense: in the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

advertising materials for their Beckett festivals, they have been careful to repeatedly use the same distinctive fonts, as well as relatively similar ‘monochrome’ images of the older Beckett (McMullan and McTighe 2014: n.p.). Despite such openness to branding and commodification, the Gate’s interest in ‘exporting’ Beckett cannot be linked unequivocally to the emphasis on international touring that has grown significantly with the economic globalization of theatre. From the Gate’s founding by Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir in 1928, the theatre has always been outward-looking and interested in international touring (memorable early tours took in Egypt, Malta and the Balkans). That said, touring the Beckett festival productions has always been a high priority for the theatre, and Colgan has definitely not shown a Friel-like indifference to the international reception of these productions. (Brian Friel once famously said that Irish playwrights should speak first and foremost to Irish audiences, and ‘if we are overheard in America or England, so much the better’ (1999: 86).)24 Colgan’s keen efforts to tour the shows have been made easier by the fact that Beckett’s plays are relatively simple to stage. As McTighe notes, most of the plays require simple sets, and a number of them are monologues and/or involve pre-recorded sound; therefore, ‘the main costs of these productions lie in their preparation […] rather than their realisation on the stage, making them readily accessible to international tours and festivals’ (2013b: 167). Colgan’s focus on touring the Beckett shows internationally – while arguably a commendable instinct in itself – is another way in which the theatre is conforming to the economic globalization of theatre. The Gate has also collaborated with – and, indeed, actively contributed to – the fiscal globalization of theatre through its involvement in what has been called the ‘festivalization of culture’ (Bennett, Taylor and Woodward 2014; Singleton 2004: 259). Art works (including radical ones) are often made more easily ‘consumable’ today through their packaging within a festival format. The festivalization of culture is also increasingly popular because contemporary art ‘consumers’ like to

The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals


participate in what they regard as special, transitory, one-off events or experiences. As Lonergan has explained, the worlds of theatre and commerce have drawn closer in recent decades, and today ‘the success of many businesses [… is] determined not by the quality of their services, but by the experience they stage for their customers’ (Lonergan 2009: 14). Theatres (like the businesses to whom they have lent the language of performance) are under pressure to provide memorable ‘experiences’ for their patrons – and this goes well beyond hiring friendly staff, serving nice refreshments and making sure that the auditorium is comfortable. A second concern for theatres today is how to get patrons to sit through short (or very long) theatre productions that they might be otherwise inclined to avoid. The main means by which theatres have addressed both challenges is through festivalization – or, as Colgan puts it, ‘Eventing’. Discussing the 1991 Beckett Festival in an interview, Colgan once said: ‘I don’t think that audiences will sit down for two hours anymore unless you give them a reward. And the reward you give them is by telling them that they have been to an Event. When you Event something, you’ve a much better chance of getting them to sit through even five hours’ (quoted in Chambers, FitzGibbon and Jordan 2001: 82). By festivalizing or ‘Eventing’ Beckett’s work, Colgan has made a number of short plays more easily consumable for his customers; by making the Beckett festivals major cultural events, he has attracted customers who might be less inclined to go to an ordinary evening of Beckett because of the perceived difficulty of his work. Colgan’s acceptance of and contribution to the festivalization phenomenon is part of his complicity in the economic globalization of theatre. Colgan says that he aims to fill the theatre ‘with the least possible bad taste’ (quoted in McCann 2008: B7); therefore, he is obviously not worried by the criticisms of those who suggest that ‘festivalization’ has resulted in the increased ‘commodification’ of culture and that, with festivals, ‘the locus of control is moving away from the civic and the local and towards the market and the global’ (Richards 2007: 270).


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

A final way that the Gate has conformed to the economic globalization of theatre is through its use of celebrity casting – in many of the theatre’s productions but especially for its Beckett festivals. As Lonergan contends, many theatre patrons are excited to see their favourite film or television stars act in a play, because – like those who attend festivals – they feel as though they are having a special, ‘authentic’, ‘one-in-a-lifetime’ experience (Lonergan 2009: 157, 159). Patrons are also attracted to plays featuring film and television stars because such productions have a reassuring familiarity: patrons get to watch a performer they have already ‘consumed’ in another medium. The Dublin runs of each Beckett festival have featured stars from Irish, British and American film and television, including Stephen Rea, Fionnuala Flanagan, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Penelope Wilton, Siân Phillips, Kenneth Cranham, David Bradley and Peter Dinklage. The touring version of the 2006 festival featured performances by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Charles Dance, Cynthia Nixon and Julianne Moore.25 Charles Dance and Andrea Corr were two of those who read excerpts from Beckett’s prose and poetry as part of an evening of readings at the 2010 festival. (Given that many of these performers have starred in Hollywood films and internationally successful television programmes, it could be argued that the Gate’s use of celebrity casting has contributed not only to economic but also to cultural globalization.) Of course, the main (and often just) criticism of celebrity casting is that screen actors are not very effective on stage, given their relative lack of theatrical experience. The screen stars cast in the Gate Beckett festivals have, in the main, performed very well – perhaps because many of the Irish and British actors have done significant amounts of stage acting. When it comes to celebrity casting, Colgan could more easily be criticized for his attempt to use stars from Dublin music hall and Irish popular entertainment. In 1986, Colgan surprised everyone when he used legendary Dublin music hall star Maureen Potter in the Gate’s seminal production of Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock. Potter turned in a brilliant performance. In attempting to repeat this success, Colgan – for the 1991 festival – rehired Potter to play the lead in

The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals


Rockaby and hired singer, television presenter and commercial theatre star Adèle King (better known by her stage name Twink) for the role of Mouth in Not I. Both performers received decidedly mixed reviews. In the case of King, Gerry Colgan described her performance as ‘a word-perfect and controlled realisation of the text’ (Colgan 1991a: 8); however, Michael Coveney of The Observer echoed the views of many when he wrote that ‘Adèle King deprived the jabbering mouth in a void of all urgency and tension by implying too much of a performance beyond her lips. More is often less, and too much’ (Coveney 1991: 56).26 In Michael Colgan’s defence, it should be noted that the casting of King was Not I director Colm O’Bríain’s idea; Colgan favoured hiring ‘an international actress’ for the part (Holohan 1991: A2). Undaunted by the mixed reviews received by Potter and King, Colgan hired the renowned comedy revue duo ‘Des and Rosie’ (Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan) to play Nagg and Nell for the 2010 festival production of Endgame. In this case, Colgan’s choice was justified; both were very entertaining in the roles. Then again, both actors have done much ‘serious’ acting in the past, with Linehan turning in a memorable performance as Winnie from Happy Days at the London remounting of the first Beckett Festival in 1999.27 Beckett is often called a global writer, and he clearly found excessive patriotism repugnant. One need only think of his comedic sideswipe at fervent nationalists in First Love: ‘Wherever nauseated time has dropped a nice fat turd you will find our patriots, sniffing it up on all fours, their faces on fire’ (Beckett 2000 [1970]: 73). Using his work to assist in the globalization of theatre might therefore seem somehow appropriate. However, Beckett’s plays, by focusing on the socially alienated and the economically and culturally marginalized, implicitly criticize the kind of hegemonic power wielded by (even well-meaning) neoliberal capitalists and cultural imperialists as they strive to bring about a more ‘globalized’ world. What is more, Beckett strongly emphasizes the local in his oeuvre, even in late ‘placeless’ works such as … but the clouds … and Company – both of which mention the back roads near his childhood home of Cooldrinagh


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

(1984a: 262; 2009 [1980]: 14); clearly, the Dublin landscape of Beckett’s youth haunted the writer all his days. The Gate Theatre, with their Beckett festivals, may have contributed to the economic globalization of theatre and may have allowed Beckett’s plays to be treated as Irish cultural commodities by the likes of the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, and international theatregoers interested in the ‘Irish play’ brand. But they have also combated economic and cultural globalization simply by producing Beckett’s work faithfully and well. By staging works like Waiting for Godot, Not I, Rough for Theatre I and the adaptation I’ll Go On, the Gate have enabled theatre patrons across the world to witness Beckett’s compassion for those left behind by Darwinian ‘competition economics’ (Therborn 2000: 151). By focusing on the local, the Gate have acknowledged the importance of Beckett’s marginal national background, even as many critics continue to claim that his work is postnational. And, by refusing to overly Hibernicize Beckett’s work, the Gate have not only prevented his plays from conforming fully to the ‘Irish play’ brand; they have also helped theatre patrons to see that his work simultaneously addresses Irish, wider European, and, indeed, global concerns. Ultimately, the tensions between the local and the global that mark the Gate’s Beckett festivals are a fitting tribute to a man whose work frequently – and deliberately – maintains similar tensions.


Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion– the Adaptability and Durability of Beckett in Belfast David Grant

My first encounter with the work of Samuel Beckett was as a member of the audience at the 1975 production of Waiting for Godot at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre when I was fifteen. Although I was by then a fairly regular theatregoer, it was quite unlike anything I had ever seen or imagined before. I went with my parents (whom I recall were less impressed than I was) and friends of theirs from Dublin who worked in the theatre and who were staying with us that evening. I remember sitting with them, late into the night, drinking in the insights they were able to offer me on this remarkable new discovery. It is interesting, therefore, as I come to reflect back on my decision in 1999 as the then Acting Artistic Director of the Lyric to programme a production of the same play (directed by the distinguished Romanian theatre director Gabor Tompa), to find that I was not alone among my theatre contemporaries in harbouring strong memories of the 1975 production. In a booklet published by the Lyric to mark the closing in 2008 of the first theatre building on the theatre’s Ridgeway Street site, Marie Jones and Carol Moore both single it out as a seminal experience. Jones, now a celebrated dramatist in her own right, recalls that back then: I hadn’t a clue because I wasn’t really a theatre person […] But it was just brilliant and for somebody like me who had never really been to the theatre – I was gobsmacked and it didn’t really matter then that I didn’t really understand it. I had never seen anything like this – it was


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland absolutely frightening […] and uncomfortable, but brilliant. If you are uncomfortable in the theatre something is getting to you. That is my first memory of going to the theatre and then I joined the Young Lyric. (Lyric Theatre 2008: 9)

The actor and director, Carol Moore, who within a decade would co-found with Marie Jones the mould-breaking Charabanc Theatre Company, also selected the 1975 Godot as a personal highlight: ‘I was completely blown away. I can’t remember who was in it, except Joe McPartland is just so vivid to me, under the tree […] I was transfixed – not that I understood exactly what was going on, but I remember thinking this is important’ (Lyric Theatre 2008: 9). So for three young theatregoers, here was a play that made an astonishingly lasting impression – one that in my own case would lead me to programme Waiting for Godot at the heart of the Lyric’s eve-of-Millennium season in November 1999. It is therefore gratifying to see a few pages further on in the same memorial booklet that the later production made an equally memorable impact on at least one member of a new generation of Northern Ireland actors, Will Irvine: It was an Eastern European director who was directing it and the set was all shoes. It was my first exposure to Beckett and that whole crazy world. And I was on a school trip and we were all on the minibus on the way back to Downpatrick and I just couldn’t stop talking about what I’d seen […] it opened my mind to what theatre could be, what writing could be and the whole world of ideas. (Lyric Theatre 2008: 20)

Inspired by these accounts, I took advantage of the Lyric Theatre’s Facebook page to solicit additional recollections of the 1999 production and received two responses. Methodologically, this approach to data gathering can be considered to be what ethnographers call ‘bellwether case selection’, with the target group selecting themselves within a defined interest group. The first reply spoke of ‘one of those theatre events that stands out strongly in a life of theatre going (52 yrs old)’ and drew particular attention, as Will Irvine had done, to Andrei Both’s design, with its carpet of shoes, painted grey, and the television, set amid a strew of rubble.1

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


The other response, from American actor Kris Halpin, was more visceral. In an interview I conducted with her after she made contact following my Facebook post, she explained that she had gone to see the 1999 production because she was shortly to go into rehearsal for a different play with Conleth Hill, who had played Estragon. Although she was aware of Waiting for Godot from her university studies and from the hype surrounding the Robin Williams and Steve Martin production at New York’s Lincoln Center in 1988, this was her first time seeing the play. She reported a ‘vivid’ recollection of the opening moments of the production as Hill wrestled with his shoe. She also recalled the seat she sat in and its proximity to the stage in the now demolished 1968 theatre (‘house right towards the back’). And she remembered how Sean Campion, who played Vladimir, manipulated his hat: ‘His use of the hat was contemplative. He would take the rim from the inside and turn it around.’2 One striking feature of all these memories is their durability. For Jones, Moore and I, more than three decades had elapsed since we had seen the 1975 production; for Irvine nearly ten years and for Cleary and Halpin more than fifteen years since the one in 1999. Jones’s use of the word ‘uncomfortable’ also highlights the strong sense of the visceral embodiment evoked by these memories, which seem to be recalled physically as much as intellectually. From a personal standpoint, when called upon to select the final play for the Lyric’s 1999 programme, amid the pervasive millennial hype, it is perhaps unsurprising that I was drawn to a work whose impact as an audience member I had so internalized. In choosing to emphasize the experience of the audience rather than that of the actors, I am conscious that most of the witnesses cited above are also performers. It may be that their familiarity with the process of inhabiting another character in performance imbues them with a heightened capacity to register and to recall an embodied response when viewing the work of other performers. But as Jacques Rancière has persuasively argued, no audience member should ever be regarded as passive. His idea of the ‘emancipated spectator’ challenges Brechtian


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

orthodoxy with its concern to unsettle the spectator into a more active engagement with the ideas of a play, concluding that: ‘“[g]ood” theatre is one that uses its separate reality in order to abolish it’ (2009: 7). My actor-witnesses can therefore reasonably be seen as simply more specialist representatives of the audience in general. Indeed, it may be that their ability to recall the shadowy traces of what they have experienced as members of an audience may be more durable than their embodied memory of the characters they have performed. Conleth Hill’s account of his own process, which he has told me requires him to dispossess himself of one role in order to fully inhabit another, would suggest just that. Recent developments in neuroscience are providing important new insights into the cognitive processes that inform our experience as spectators. Dee Reynolds and Matthew Reason, in their collection of essays on the theme of kinaesthetic empathy, highlight Henri Bergson’s insight when he observed that ‘[w]e should have to relive the life of the subject who experiences [an emotion] if we wished to grasp it in its original complexity’ (Bergson: 16, quoted in Reynolds and Reason 2012: 13): For Bergson, art impresses rather than expresses feelings – this is to say that art’s primary intention in a phenomenological sense of purposeful action is to convey emotions to future viewers. And, presciently suggesting the body’s ‘mechanical imitation’ of […] emotions, Bergson opens the door for later discussions of ‘mirroring’. (Reynolds and Reason 2012: 13)

As is evident from Reynolds and Reason’s book, there is a growing body of neurological evidence that empathetic responses are triggered by dedicated ‘mirror neurons’ which activate those parts of the human brain which would function if an observer were themselves experiencing what they see happening to others. Proprioception (one’s sensory awareness of one’s own physical presence) connects thoughts and ideas directly to the body, allowing us to store memory as ‘embodied knowledge’. Those viewing a play can engage not only intellectually and

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


semiotically through the reading of signs but also intuitively through a process of kinaesthetic empathy, triggered by mirror-neurons. That is to say, the viewers’ brains replicate some of the brain functions of the performers. These insights have helped me in retrospect to understand more fully the impulse that attracted me to programme Godot in 1999. The late 1990s in Belfast was a period heavy with symbolism. One has only to think of Tony Blair’s now notorious ad-lib on the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that this was no time for soundbites; he felt the hand of history on his shoulder. I was anxious to find something for the theatre’s last production of the 1900s that would reflect the heady ‘Janus’ mix of backward and forward thinking (memory and vision) that had characterized the recently concluded negotiations. The tortuous nature of this process has been aptly captured by the Welsh poet, Gillian Clarke, in her poem, ‘A Difficult Birth: Easter 1998’, which drew its title from Waiting for Godot. Comparing the Good Friday Agreement with the birth of a lamb, she portrays Northern Ireland as ‘an old ewe that somehow till this year / had given the ram the slip. We thought her barren […] While they [Northern Ireland’s political factions] slog it out in Belfast, eight decades / since Easter 1916, exhausted, tamed by pain [a particularly insightful phrase […] But the lamb won’t come […] We strain together, harder than we dared […] and you find us / peaceful, at a cradling that might have been a death’ (Clarke 1998). There was no shortage of plays that might have been called upon to match the significance of the political moment. Had not President Clinton himself quoted the now iconic ‘when hope and history rhyme’ line from Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy on a visit to Derry in 1995? I had experienced at first hand, when seeing Tinderbox Theatre Company’s production of Stewart Parker’s Pentecost, that play’s extraordinary capacity to reflect the optimism generated by the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 and to evoke equally the pessimism that followed the collapse of the ceasefires when Rough Magic staged the same play in Dublin just a year later for the 1995 Dublin Theatre Festival. With hindsight, it has become clear to me that I must have sensed that what


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

was needed in Belfast in 1999, in an uncertain time of change, was not the concrete reality of these classical or contemporary plays, despite the fact that audiences would understand them differently than when first produced. The abstract quality of Godot would allow audiences to transcend mere interpretation by permitting them a more visceral engagement with the play. In an article for a booklet published to mark the tenth anniversary of the Lyric’s 1968 move from its founder Mary O’Malley’s home to its present site on Belfast’s Ridgeway Street (presumably written with reference to the 1975 production), Alec Reid, a former Lecturer in English at Beckett’s own university, Trinity College Dublin, anticipates more recent postmodern thinking when he points to the high level of agency accorded audiences by the playwright’s approach to writing. He quotes Tom F. Driver’s observation that: ‘[Beckett] has devised his works in such a way that those who comment on them comment upon themselves’ (1979: 56). Reid proceeds to catalogue a number of similar observations, including that of a reviewer of the now famous production of Godot at San Quentin Penitentiary, that Beckett ‘expects each member of his audience to draw his own conclusions, make his own errors’ (ibid.). More crucially, Reid argues (quoting a phrase the playwright himself used when writing about Proust) that Beckett takes us into ‘perilous zones in the life of an individual: dangerous, precarious, painful, mysterious and fertile, when for a moment the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being’. ‘Waiting for Godot’, Reid concludes, ‘is an immersion into one such zone of being’ (ibid.). This essentially phenomenological analysis goes some way to explaining the extraordinary durability of some of the audience responses cited above. Beckett’s drama has an exceptional capacity to connect with us at some deep level that goes beyond, or perhaps more accurately beneath, the intellectual. Each audience member has thus the potential to become much more even than Rancière’s ‘emancipated spectator’: we become implicated in the work. In this regard, the theatre director, whom Sir Tyrone Guthrie once aptly described as ‘an audience of one’ (Ahart 2001: 25), enjoys, through repeated

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


viewing, a particularly privileged relationship with the performance. The remainder of this chapter will therefore focus on an interview with Gabor Tompa, the director of the 1999 Lyric production of Godot, who retains an astonishing recall of the rehearsal process. Speaking in 2000 at an event at Queen’s University, Belfast, to mark the centenary of Tyrone Guthrie, Sir Peter Hall was asked if he regretted that many of his early productions pre-dated the easy availability of video documentation. His answer (a firm ‘no’) reflects the fact, as Walter Kirn has put it, that ‘memory is an imaginative act […] What makes memory magical is its imperfections and its unpredictability […] it draws our attention to the margins of stories that once seemed to be the main event’ (Kirn 2015: 16). This seems a quintessentially Beckettian position. The way in which the above witnesses have held within them traces of their experiences of Godot seems often to go beyond language in a way that could never be captured by today’s ‘total digital recall’ (ibid.). When John Fairleigh, a Lyric trustee who throughout the 1990s established himself as the principal cultural intermediary between Ireland and Romania, arranged for me to meet the distinguished Romanian theatre director, Gabor Tompa, it seemed an ideal opportunity to discuss the special challenge of programming for the eve of the Millennium. Having had the privilege of being in Bucharest in February 1990, just weeks after the overthrow of Ceaușescu, to negotiate the visit of Ion Caramitru’s celebrated Bulandra Theatre Hamlet to the Dublin Theatre Festival, I was acutely aware that Romania, like Northern Ireland, had recent experience of momentous political change. To walk through the streets of the Romanian capital, to see the bullet-marked buildings and to smell the scent of candles at impromptu memorials to the recent dead has left a profound impression on me. Tompa, who studied directing in Bucharest before becoming Artistic Director of the Hungarian theatre in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, also worked at the Bulandra under the repressive Communist regime and experienced this time of rapid change at first hand. But it was as a student in Bucharest that Tompa first worked on a Beckett play:


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland When I was in my second year back in 1979 I took a course in Contemporary Theatre and I did my first Beckett which was Happy Days. And the production was then taken up by the Teatrul Mic in Bucharest who performed it for a season and a half. I came back to this text more than twenty five years later in Barcelona and found it very different. In my first production, for me and the young actress who played Winnie it was a kind of revolt against the Ceaușescu regime. She wasn’t buried in sand, she was buried in a mound of cultural garbage. And her attitude was rebellious. Which is totally different from its kind of optimism which now I believe I understand better, now that I’m older. I was just 22 when I did it before.3

I recognize this chameleon quality of Beckett’s drama – its capacity to adapt to the context of each production. When I first saw Godot in 1975, it seemed to me to speak to the hopelessness and uncertainty we felt in Belfast at the height of ‘the troubles’, characterized by its opening line: ‘Nothing to be done.’ But reading it in 1998, I saw in it the temporary optimism of the times – the sense that if we just kept our faith and waited long enough, something good might happen. Tompa also sensed this in each of the Irish actors that he ended up choosing for his 1999 production: We held auditions in London and Dublin as well as in Belfast and I saw several important actors, but somehow even though Sean and Conleth were on tour with Stones in his Pockets [see below] and had limited time to prepare, after three of four minutes I knew they would be the actors. They understood the humour. This was completely Irish and that was why our whole cast ended up completely Irish. I believe that that was very important.

Though Conleth Hill was from Northern Ireland, and Sean Campion, Ned Dennehy who played Lucky, and Donncha Crowley who played Pozzo, were all from the Republic of Ireland, ‘they carried with them the hopes they had about the Good Friday Agreement’ (Tompa 2015). Tompa had experienced something of the tensions of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ when he had toured his production of Ionesco’s The Bald Primadonna to Derry and Belfast in 1993, the year before the first

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IRA ceasefire that was to prove to be the first tentative step towards peace. He was, therefore, fully aware of the contrasting optimism of 1999. But he did not want his production to deal in ‘direct messages […] It’s important to keep an eye on the context, but you have to serve the spirit of the play. There are so many possibilities’ (Tompa 2015). The fact that the actors carried with them an embodied sense of place and time was to be enough. When it came to programming the 1999–2000 season at the Lyric Theatre, questions of time and place were in the forefront of my mind. The bicentennial of the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion had generated a wealth of commemorative events, including a memorable co-production in October by the Tinderbox and Field Day Theatre Companies of Stewart Parker’s Northern Star. In a masterstroke of site-specificity, it was performed in Belfast’s historic Rosemary Street Presbyterian church, where many of the play’s characters had once worshipped. In the play, Parker has the actors replay the ‘night-thoughts’ of his principal protagonist, the ill-fated leader of the rebellion, Henry Joy McCracken, on the eve of his arrest and execution, rendering each episode in the style of a different Irish dramatist, from Farquhar to Beckett. Significantly, the ‘Beckettian final speeches of the play’ (Bort 2010: 41) occur as McCracken contemplates his death: ‘So then the plunge, the wrench, the plunge, the rough strangle, and so there an end. To finish. Unless only to begin anew, there is of course that. Only to glimmer on in an effigy of another time. Other times, other effigies, never to know end’s mercy, never to know mercy, so much for the rope’s comfort’ (Parker 2000: 78). In these moments, the play breaks free from the relentless progression of chronology which has taken the audience from ‘The Age of Innocence’ (in the style of Farquhar), to ‘The Age of Idealism’ (Boucicault), to ‘The Age of Cleverness’ (Wilde), to ‘The Age of Dialectic’ (Shaw), to ‘The Heroic Age’ (Synge), to ‘The Age of Compromise’ (O’Casey). As Eberhard Bort explains: ‘The final flashback is set in Kilmainham gaol, where four prisoners comment, as in Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow, on the fate of the condemned prisoner waiting for his execution. As with Behan’s characters, and


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

not unlike Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, they while away the time with reminiscences and stories’ (2010: 371–2). Previous productions had tended to emphasize the politics of the play, treating the use of theatrical pastiche as a formal vehicle. In this production, director Stephen Rea chose to foreground the stylistic dimension of the play, allowing the political ideas to speak for themselves; but the political content was nonetheless explicit. In contrast to the kind of programming influenced by anniversaries as exemplified by Northern Star, Waiting for Godot suggested itself in 1998 precisely because, like the closing sections of Parker’s play, it eschewed explicit topicality and simplistic relevance. According to Anthony Roche: ‘If situating Beckett’s plays in an Irish context reveals features of his drama that are more culturally grounded than is usually recognized, the context of Beckett in turn enables the emergence of a more international and purely theatrical dimension of “Irish” plays’ (Roche 1994: 6). The combination of Irish actors with an international director working on a play that was widely acknowledged as a world classic was, as one critic put it, ‘A perfect example of a symbiotic relationship between the international and the local […] By their own testimony, the cast and crew of Godot, including Sean Campion and Conleth Hill as the existential double-act, had an extraordinary experience; working, sharing and fusing together ideas to create what was a refreshing, intelligent, and above all humane production’ (McAvinchey 2000: 28). The word ‘fusing’ seems particularly apt, suggesting as it does the kind of internalized embodiment I have discussed above. The choice of Hill and Campion for the central roles was particularly fortuitous. The fact that they were already touring together to Dublin, Edinburgh and London in Marie Jones’s Stones in his Pockets as the final elements of the production came together, promised to allow the production to take advantage of the momentum of what had proved to be one of the greatest commercial and critical successes of recent years. Stones, which tells the story of two Irish extras on a Hollywood film shoot in Kerry, required each of the actors to take on a multiplicity

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


of roles, switching between them with breath-taking fluidity. To that extent, it seemed stylistically very far from Beckett. But the palpable rapport enjoyed by the two actors carried brilliantly into their playing of Didi and Gogo, and it was likely this quality that most sang out to Tompa when he auditioned them. Adding to the international flavour of the Lyric’s 1999 Godot was the fact that Tompa chose to work with a Romanian designer, his long-time collaborator Andrei Both. As already noted, two aspects of the design proved to be particularly memorable: the carpet of shoes and the incorporation of a seemingly defunct television set which was perched on a mound of other detritus. My own strongest association with the shoes was the Holocaust, namely the warehouses of confiscated footwear found by the liberators of Nazi concentration camps at the end of the Second World War, and Tompa (whose mother was of Jewish origin) concedes that possibility, but traces the origin of the idea firmly back to the play itself: ‘It could have led to the Holocaust as an image. But the shoes came from the core of the play. Estragon’s shoes which he doesn’t want to wear anymore are his own cross. Vladimir persuades him to put on his shoe. The shoe is a metaphor of our own destiny, our own cross’ (Tompa 2015). A request went out from the Lyric for members of the public to contribute disused footwear to the production. What began as a pragmatic response to the need for a large quantity of shoes became a way of potential audience members creating a direct, personal connection with the production: ‘Women’s shoes, kids’ shoes. We were all there. The most moving thing was that when we advertised for shoes, this kind of interaction created by bringing in the shoes made people part of the process’ (Tompa 2015). In a very literal sense, those watching the play imagined themselves in someone else’s shoes. The use of the television set proved more controversial. For most of each of the play’s two acts, it appeared redundant and inert, seemingly disconnected from any power source that could have given it life. Then, just as the script calls for the boy to enter in the closing section of each act, the television spluttered into life, revealing his face in the centre of


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the screen. In those pre-internet days, it was not until the last week of the production’s four-week run that this device came to the notice of the Beckett Estate, when an acerbic review by John Peter in The Sunday Times drew attention to it: ‘The television set is not clapped out after all: Godot’s little messenger appears on it in close-up and full colour, neatly cancelling the effect of preposterous reality that its arrival demands’ (1999). This quickly resulted in an instruction from Beckett’s agent for us immediately to restore the author’s original stage directions. Tompa, however, remains unrepentant: They were concerned that the boy was not live, but he was live. That’s also in the spirit of the play. The boy was sitting in a dressing room. He saw Vladimir and Estragon from the television screen as if he really saw them. ‘Did you see us? Don’t say you were here and didn’t see us.’ TV is an icon of our time that creates distance between us and we are manipulated by this medium. It serves to mystify the truth. (Tompa 2015)

As the boy looked up out of the television he looked first at Didi and then at Gogo. This was achieved by the simple device of having two signs at head height on either side of the video camera that was located back stage. The young actor knew to look at one sign when speaking to one character and the other when speaking to the other. It created the remarkable, if impossible, sense that he was actually inside the television set. The idea is all the more remarkable in the way it pre-dated (and in Tompa’s analysis of it, predicted) the emergence of our current ‘reality television’ culture – its obsession, in fact, with (pace John Peter) ‘preposterous reality’. The other aspect of Tompa’s approach which might have proved unsettling for the Beckett Estate was his approach to language. As a polyglot director, fluent in Hungarian, Romanian, English, French and Spanish, he had a remarkable capacity to read seamlessly between different language versions. Beckett connects me to the idea of precision in art and in theatre and the musical structure of the plays. I first really encountered Beckett as

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


a directing student in Bucharest. I knew Waiting for Godot vaguely, but I first read it in Romanian and then in the original French and English. I think he used the experience of the [original French-language] Roger Blin productions when he translated the plays into English. So the English versions to me seem the most perfect. (Tompa 2002)

But Tompa was prepared to interpolate additional material from the French when he felt it was merited. Furthermore, just as Alan Simpson felt a sense of licence when working from Beckett’s typescript on the first Irish production of Godot (see Morash 2000: 199–200), Tompa relished his experience of the Irish idiom adopted by all four actors, which brought a pace and vivacity to their performances which he believes was entirely consistent with Beckett’s view that his characters are clowns: ‘In any other place I directed Godot it was two and half hours. In Ireland it was just over two hours with intermission. The greatest compliment was in the Irish Times when they said that this was a very Irish performance. I’m very curious to connect with other cultures when I work abroad’ (Tompa 2015). Tompa is recalling the Irish Times critic Jane Coyle’s conclusion that ‘rarely can the rhythms and cadences and lyrical wit of his native land have been more resolutely delivered than in Gabor Tompa’s intensely moving and humane production of arguably Beckett’s greatest play’ (Coyle 1999). To John Peter’s English ear, however, the local voices struck a jarring note: ‘Vladimir speaks with a Dublin accent, more or less; Estragon is an Ulsterman: this gives the play unwelcome connotations’ (Peter 1999). The semiotics of accent was also a feature of Simpson’s 1955 Godot in Dublin’s Pike Theatre. Simpson’s wife, Carolyn Swift, recalls the effect of the change when Nigel ‘Bobs’ Fitzgerald’s public school Pozzo, which had evoked echoes of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, was temporarily replaced by veteran Abbey actor, Fred Johnson: Realising his background was totally different from that of Bob’s, Alan never attempted to direct him in the same way and got from him a marvellous performance as a nouveau-riche entrepreneur who had no sympathy with the workers now that he was no longer of


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland their number. It is this universal character of Godot, which allows for countless different interpretations, applying equally well to a wide variety of situations, which I think gives it the greatness of the works of Shakespeare. (Swift 1985: 187)

The inevitable subjectivity of audience perceptions highlighted by these accounts only serves to reinforce that Swift is quite right when she asserts the exceptional adaptability of Waiting for Godot. As a Hungarian-speaker working in Romania, Tompa also felt a strong connection to the actors as members of what he understood to be a minority Catholic culture. He recalled expressing at a press conference in Belfast his astonishment as an outsider at the divisions within a Christian culture he experienced in Northern Ireland. Having a mother of Jewish origin, a Protestant father and a Catholic grandmother, a mixed society was very natural to him. But that did not prevent him from understanding the perspective of the minority: Everyone is a minority in a way. I believe an artist has always to be in opposition. A country without opposition is going to reproduce dictatorship and tyranny. At least one production of Godot at the Bulandra was stopped under Ceaușescu by the ideological committee. Their worry was how the audience would interpret it. We all know that when Godot has been presented in San Quentin, it was clearly understood. As Martin Esslin has put it, Godot is freedom. That interpretation was scary for the regime. For that reason Endgame was never performed at all! But Happy Days was also banned in the 1980s. It wasn’t always the top of the mountain that these ideas came from. There was selfcensorship, cuts in advance by people afraid of losing their position. For safety they said no. (Tompa 2015)

While censorship was not an issue when it came to programming Waiting for Godot in Belfast in 1999, economic pressures as ever loomed large at the Lyric, and Beckett was not considered by some of the Board to be the ‘banker’ the budgetary constraints required. Thankfully, there was some ring-fenced funding available under the National Lottery’s ‘Advancement’ programme, which allowed us to cover the costs of the

Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion


guest director and designer. The casting of Campion and Hill clinched the deal. As Anthony Roche has noted, Godot in Ireland has been ‘a popular rather than an avant-garde success’ (1994: 4) and in the event, the production played to near capacity. With the single exception of the acerbic John Peter, it proved to be a critical as well as a popular success. That Waiting for Godot could achieve an equally positive reception at the Lyric in both 1975 and 1999, at such different times in the city’s history, I attribute to the capacity of the play to connect each time with Belfast’s changing fortunes as the city has moved from ambiguous war towards a tentative peace. ‘[I]n this immense confusion one thing alone is clear,’ says Vladimir towards the end of the play. ‘We are waiting for Godot to come’ (Beckett 1965: 80). This assertion of hope over experience epitomizes the lasting appeal of the play, and helps explain its continuing capacity to resonate with each new changing set of circumstances. The word ‘resonate’ is used advisedly, because of the distinctive way that Waiting for Godot has been seen to linger in the bodies of those that have seen it as well as in their minds.


Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Focus Theatre Siobhán O’Gorman

This chapter examines productions of Beckett’s work at Dublin’s Focus Theatre, a seventy-two-seat venue that was part of Dublin’s cultural fabric until it closed in 2012. I home in on Focus’s own staging of Happy Days in the early 1970s, in addition to productions of Waiting for Godot by Oscar and Taboo theatre companies in 1985 and 1991 respectively, both of which the Focus Theatre hosted. These productions garnered much critical attention at the time they were staged; however, they have remained – like the Focus itself – underexplored within Irish theatre history. Looking at specific Irish productions of Beckett’s plays from the early 1970s to the early 1990s allows us to excavate the ways in which mythologies have been built around Beckett’s work concerning, for example, how we can or should ‘do’ Beckett in terms of performance techniques, casting, place, space and relative to issues of cultural identity. Examining these productions can shed further light on Ireland’s changing relationship with Beckett and Beckett’s evolution as a cultural icon.

A Stanislavskian Happy Days Focus grew out of Deirdre O’Connell’s Stanislavski Studio, which she established in Dublin in 1963, having moved to Ireland from New York. There, she had trained at the famous Lee Strasberg Institute and


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

worked with such practitioners as Erwin Piscator (Moynihan 2013: 7). By the time she came to Ireland, O’Connell had ‘actually broke[n] with the cult of Strasberg’ to concentrate on ‘the full range of Stanislavski’s writings’ (Burch 2013: 63). She trained an ensemble of performers including Tom Hickey and Sabina Coyne, as well as Mary Elizabeth and Declan Burke-Kennedy. The small Focus Theatre opened in 1967 near St Stephen’s Green. Since the 1930s, Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir had brought international modernist classics to the Irish stage through the activities of their Gate Theatre in Dublin. However, their work in this area had begun to dwindle in the late 1960s, leaving a gap for Focus to fill. Focus began to take a vested interest in work designated as ‘Irish’ only during the 1990s, when it initiated its ‘Seasons of New Irish Writing’. Up to then, however, the company concentrated mainly on developing its own repertoire of international modernist classics, including work by Jean Paul Sartre, Henrik Ibsen, Albert Camus, Luigi Pirandello and Tennessee Williams. Focus staged three productions of Beckett’s work during the 1970s and these appear to have fitted within its growing international repertoire. Its production of Happy Days premiered in 1970, directed by Declan Burke-Kennedy and featuring O’Connell with Frank MacDonald. In 1973, Focus staged a double bill of Krapp’s Last Tape and Play under the guest direction of distinguished Australian actordirector Peter O’Shaughnessy, who also played Krapp. The productions were characterized by a blend of Irish and international influences, and there is no evidence in The Focus Theatre Papers (held at the National Library of Ireland, Dublin) of it attempting to offer specifically ‘Irish’ interpretations of Beckett’s work during this time. However, the critical reception of these productions points to other ways in which Beckett’s work was becoming mythologized. Having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, Beckett’s status as a cultural icon was growing and his work was approached with reverence. Kane Archer’s review of Focus’s 1973 Beckett double bill reveals the pedantry developing around the staging of Beckett’s plays. Although Archer largely applauds O’Shaughnessy’s performance of the title role in Krapp, the critic

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


claims that the artist’s approach to directing Play ‘goes directly counter to Beckett’s express indication’, citing a lack of attention to pauses in addition to the purportedly animated expressions of Sabina Coyne, Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy and Declan Burke-Kennedy, which he claims provoked laughter (1973: 12). Presuming knowledge of Beckett’s intentions, Archer argues that the dramatist’s ‘purpose in restricting his actor’s means was to deny such a response’ (ibid.). In a 1984 special issue of Irish University Review, Christopher Murray surveys productions of Beckett in Ireland from the Pike Theatre club in 1955 to the Irish Theatre Company in 1982. His discussion includes reference to Focus’s 1973 presentations of Krapp’s Last Tape and Play. Murray sees Beckett’s work as ‘something of a departure from the Ibsenist repertoire’ of the Focus, a ‘tiny theatre which retains the conventional proscenium stage’, where the house style ‘has always been avowedly naturalistic’ (Murray 1984: 118). He goes on to object to its use of Stanislavskian exercises to interpret Beckett’s work: ‘These exercises, perfectly legitimate by Stanislavski or Strasberg standards, consorted most uneasily with Beckett’s style’ (ibid.). Murray overlooks Focus’s earlier production of Happy Days in November–December 1970, which was so well received that its run was extended through March 1971. In terms of stage imagery, Focus sought to follow Beckett’s directions as closely as possible. Playing Winnie, for example, O’Connell was presented in a mound consisting of an expandable framework over which hessian was stretched to give the appearance of sand; the production was also brightly lit throughout.1 However, the theatre’s association with Stanislavskian training contributed to critical assumptions that Focus was somehow reinterpreting Beckett’s work. This response reveals the role of critics in prescribing authentic approaches to performing this dramatist’s plays. Alec Reid, reviewing for the Irish Times, saw the Focus production of Happy Days as exploding ‘static views of Beckett’ and showing that ‘there is more than one way of staging Beckett’ (1970: 10). Reid put this perceived alternative way of ‘doing’ Beckett down to Declan BurkeKennedy’s direction. Here, according to Reid, the usual disengagement


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

between Winnie and Willie is replaced by a far more intimate relationship in which ‘Willie seems to sense Winnie’s moments of need and to respond to them’ (ibid.). Reid found this methodology rational, citing the prominence Beckett gives to the love duet from The Merry Widow. To achieve this, Focus drew on its Stanislavskian techniques in which the interdependency of the ensemble is central. Such commentary points to the ways in which myths have evolved around Beckett. Reid sees Beckett’s theatre as ‘static’ and without ‘conflict’, ‘dramatic tension’ or ‘development’ (ibid.). Murray’s contention that Stanislavskian exercises are inappropriate for staging Beckett’s work, as well as his conflation of Stanislavski and Strasberg, further reveals the reductive ways in which both Stanislavski and Beckett have at times been understood. I want to correct the misconception that theatre as physically, visually and sonically striking as Beckett’s is somehow at odds with Stanislavskian technique. As Sharon Marie Carnicke explains throughout her ground-breaking monograph on Stanislavski, Stanislavskian training focuses just as much on the actions and interactions of actors as it does on their inner life; it homes in on the creativity of performers. O’Connell was commended for her ‘visual job’ in the role of Winnie – achieved through her insistence on ‘concentration and discipline in even the smallest physical movements’ (ibid.). Indeed, Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy refers to a ‘duality’ in O’Connell’s teaching, which was not only about the ‘inner life’ but also always encompassed ‘that external view’ and the importance of ‘voice and movement’ (Burke-Kennedy 2015). Focus practitioners including the Burke-Kennedys were fully aware of the range offered by Stanislavskian training, and the way in which his approach relates to such physical practices as yoga. Beckett’s insistence on staging the text and directions as he wrote them might superficially seem to conflict with Stanislavski’s foregrounding of the actor’s creativity. Yet, one could argue that Stanislavskian technique is particularly suited to Beckett’s work in that, as Anna McMullan points out, Beckett’s theatre is ‘extraordinarily reliant on the actor’ with the ‘performing body’ as both its ‘medium’ and ‘recurrent

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


subject’ (McMullan 2010: 1). Carnicke dispels commonly held beliefs surrounding Stanislavski’s techniques, arguing that the System is in fact a holistic approach to performance applicable within a multitude of contexts. She argues, for example, that ‘Stanislavsky’s sense that the moment-to-moment performance of a role is the actor’s present reality and truth’ is a ‘paradox, which equates “truth” with “theatricality”’ and as such ‘opens the door to non-realistic aesthetics’, with which Stanislavski also experimented (Carnicke 2009: 3). Yet, director Burke-Kennedy in his programme note and critic Reid in his review both felt the need to justify the application of Stanislavskian technique to Beckett’s work. Burke-Kennedy traces Beckett’s theatrical lineage back to Chekhov and, by extension, to Stanislavski. Viewing ‘theatrical presence’ as an under-acknowledged aspect of Beckett’s work, he sees the novelty of the dramatist’s plays as apparent in the extent to which they extend Chekhov’s emphasis on ‘performance, space, stasis and the failure of language’ by developing ‘the communicative power of the whole stage reality, especially by making use of the presence (both physical and temperamental) of the actor’.2 Having produced The Wedding in 1968 and Uncle Vanya in 1970, Focus had established an interest in Chekhov, and locating Beckett within a Chekhovian tradition can be seen as an attempt to authenticate Burke-Kennedy’s approach. Yet, as previously mentioned, critics saw the Focus method as a fresh way of staging Beckett’s work. According to Reid, O’Connell played Winnie ‘not as a Beckett grotesque in an inexplicable situation but as a very recognisable ordinary woman confronted with a recognisable dramatic problem; will she or will she not crack – whatever that may mean – under the relentless external pressures to which she is being subjected?’ (Reid 1970: 10). Although Reid repeatedly defends Burke-Kennedy’s production, his comments on Focus’s supposedly novel vision for Happy Days are remarkably similar to how Beckett’s biographer James Knowlson understands the text itself as taking ‘an image associated with surrealism and [making] Winnie into a credible, buoyant human being with a wide emotional range’, for whom ‘entombment’, as in


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

‘encroachment of the sands of times’, is the most ‘natural thing in the world’ (2014). This understanding of the text testifies to the application of Stanislavski’s techniques to Beckett’s work in general and to Happy Days in particular. Indeed, when in the late 1970s Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy took Focus in new directions with highly visual work employing masks and puppets, she used Stanislavskian techniques to help actors to inhabit non-naturalistic roles, to find ‘truth’ within abstract situations (Burke-Kennedy 2015). Moreover, Tom Hickey – who was also Stanislavski-trained at Focus – went on to become a highly commended Beckett actor in such roles as Vladimir in the Dublin Gate Theatre’s 1988 production of Godot, and in A Piece of Monologue as part of the Gate’s Samuel Beckett Festival at the Lincoln Center, New York in 1996. Throughout his career, Hickey regularly returned to the Focus to engage in character studies (ibid.). Hickey confirms that his training at the Focus involved creating relationships with significant objects, a practice that he brought with him to future roles in plays by such dramatists as Beckett and Tom MacIntyre.3 So, perhaps incorporating some Stanislavskian techniques in preparation for Beckett’s roles could be helpful in bringing Beckett’s theatre into sharper focus.

A ‘Dubbalin’ Godot Dublin’s Oscar Productions, having lost its home in Ballsbridge, ‘found a temporary refuge in Focus Theatre’ (Smith 1985), where it staged Godot in the summer of 1985, under the direction of Peter Sheridan. Sheridan’s association with Oscar Productions began with his 1982 adaptation of Christy Brown’s autobiography, Down all the Days. By the early 1980s, he was also known for his association with the Project Arts Centre and for productions devised for and with local communities as part of Dublin’s City Workshop. He brought this experience to bear on his approach to staging Godot, offering a very ‘Dublin’ production that celebrated the theatricality of the city and the perceived wit of its local

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


Figure 1  Mannix Flynn as Lucky in Oscar Productions’ Waiting for Godot, 1985. Courtesy of Peter Sheridan/Oscar Productions.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

residents, garnering much critical praise. Trish McTighe, reflecting on the historical disconnection between Beckett’s drama and Ireland’s national theatre, comments that it was in fact the Gate Theatre that ‘galvanised the “Beckett Brand”’ in a process of ‘repatriation and cultural celebration of émigré artists’ that had, by the 1990s, become a feature of the Irish cultural landscape (McTighe 2013b: 160–1). The Gate’s 1991 Beckett Festival, according to McTighe, initiated a reciprocal process involving a reclaiming of Beckett for Ireland, and a use of Beckett’s work as a pathway for locating Irish theatre within wider international networks. However, efforts to repatriate Beckett can be traced back to the 1955 Irish premiere of Godot at Dublin’s Pike Theatre (which was also the first production of Beckett’s work in Ireland). Oscar productions’ Godot exemplifies another phase in this process. Efforts to authenticate both the production and Beckett’s Irishness can be discerned in its Irish reception and international marketing, both of which channelled the ghost of the Pike’s production in several ways. As McTighe points out, ‘[t]he process of “getting known”, of cultural and commercial success, has links with the issue of Beckett’s national identity and the relationship his work has to place’ (McTighe 2013b: 169). Oscar’s ‘very enjoyable production’ stopped ‘short of clowning the play up’ but worked ‘on the rhythm created by having Chris O’Neill (Vladimir) as the straight man and Johnny Murphy (Estragon) as the joker’ (O’Toole 1985). Vincent O’Neill (Pozzo) had trained as a mime artist with Marcel Marceau. Drawing on this background, he offered a Pozzo that was ‘vivid and commanding’, but younger and more energetic than usual, resembling both a ‘ring master’ (Finegan 1985) and ‘mad ballet dancer’.4 According to Sheridan, there was great ‘physical chemistry’ in his relationship with Mannix Flynn, who played Lucky (Sheridan 2015). The Boy, performed by Aisling O’Neill, who now plays Carol in the Irish soap Fair City, was ‘nicely enigmatic, wary and innocent’ (Nowlan 1985: 10). Initially taking place in June, the production was extended until mid-August because of its popular success. It went on to tour in November of that year to the Nazareth Arts Centre in Rochester, New

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


York and Monroe County Jail, Washington assisted by a special grant from the Cultural Committee of the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs. In Sheridan’s memoir, Break a Leg, he muses on Godot, seeing it not as a play in which ‘nothing happens twice’ but as one in which ‘something does happen between the acts, a change takes place and it feels like a redemption, despite the play’s nihilistic reputation’ (Sheridan 2012: 50). Sheridan had been interested in Beckett’s work since his brother, Jim, had first engaged with it while studying at UCD. Directed by Jim, he had played Vladimir in a production under the banner of the amateur group SLOT Players, which premiered at the Oriel Hall, Dublin, in 1969 before going on the road (Sheridan 2012: 51). He had also directed Godot at the Project Arts Centre in 1979 (Sheridan 2015). The critical reception of Oscar’s Godot reveals that, by the mid-1980s in Ireland, a backlash was developing against productions of Beckett’s work that appeared too solemn or reverential. Despite Sheridan’s clear grasp of Godot’s potential to promote deep metaphysical enquiry, critics commented that, in Oscar’s production, he played down the work’s philosophical complexity and played up its humour; they lauded the show as unpretentious and down to earth – and the play itself as ‘essentially a music-hall two-hander comedy act’ (O’Toole 1985). As in Focus’s Happy Days, the characters here found truth within their bizarre situation. There was no mystery about the two tramps; they were, quite simply, waiting for Godot (Smith 1985). Writing for the Irish Independent, Desmond Rushe notes that Oscar Productions’ staging of Godot offered a departure from so many other productions he had seen, which were ‘stamped by a reverential awe’ (Rushe 1985). He continues: ‘If Mr Beckett would not be pleased by the whole thing, audiences surely will’ (ibid.). Nevertheless, if critics such as Rushe were initially wary as to whether or not Beckett himself would approve of such a production, they soon found ways to authenticate this wellreceived show. Writing for the Evening Herald, John Finegan pointed out (with a hint of fanfare) the significance of Sheridan’s production appearing at the Focus Theatre in 1985, invoking the importance of Dublin and of the Pike’s 1955 production:


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland After almost 30 years, and insurmountable subsequent Dublin presentations in large playhouses, Samuel Beckett’s first and most famous drama, Waiting for Godot, returned this week to where it rightfully belongs – a small theatre equipped with a small stage. […] The play, it may be recalled, had its Irish premiere in October 1955 at the vanished Pike. (Finegan 1985)

Finegan goes on to refer to Oscar’s production as a ‘revival’, constructing the event both as a homecoming for Beckett’s work and as a kind of replica of how it might have been experienced during the Irish premiere. And, indeed, the 1985 production did repeat some aspects of the Irish premiere with the tramps speaking in ‘Dublinese’ and O’Neill’s Pozzo, ‘clipped trim and moustachioed’, offering ‘all the command of an Anglo-Irish upper crust dealing with the Dubbalin ordinariness of the pair’ (Nowlan 1985: 10). Alan Simpson, who directed the Pike’s production and whom Sheridan had encountered while competing in student drama competitions, advocates at length for this approach to staging Godot in his 1962 memoir (1962: 125). Simpson admits that he interpreted Lucky in much the same way as the character had been construed in its French premiere: ‘a creature of ultimate degradation and suffering’ (ibid.). This is where Sheridan’s Dublin production departed from Simpson’s. Flynn’s casting and performance as Lucky in Oscar’s production, according to Sheridan, added ‘a gritty, urban feel’ (Sheridan 2015). One critic described this Lucky as ‘strongly projected as a creature of danger by Mannix Flynn’ (Finegan 1985). According to Irish Times critic David Nowlan, ‘Flynn’s luckless Lucky is sinisterly quiet’ and ‘his thinking aloud drives his listeners, more than himself, into a frenzy’ (1985: 10). Flynn was known for his previous roles in a 1978 production of The Risen People, set in the shadow of the Dublin Lockout, and The Liberty Suit in 1979, which focused on his own life and sought to challenge the workings of Irish institutional reformatories. Ghosted by these previous roles and under Sheridan’s socially conscious direction, Flynn helped to reconstruct the wretched slave figure as a potential insurgent at a time of social unrest in Ireland, a year after the famous Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike had begun.

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


Critical commentary pointed out the relevance of this particular play to Ireland of the 1980s: ‘With mass unemployment for one thing, shorter working hours, the problem of passing time assumes agonising proportions’ (Smith 1985). Placed within the production’s historical context, Oscar’s Lucky could be taken variously as an exploited employee or a poverty-stricken tenant on the verge of revolt. The 1970s and 1980s were periods of much industrial unrest in which the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ‘took a hard-line stance’, initiating defensive actions ‘to maintain wages and employment’ in the industrial and public spheres (Ferriter 2004: 671). Diarmaid Ferriter points out that the increase in inequality in Ireland of the 1980s could not be denied: ‘In the late 1980s, the top 10 per cent of households held one half of the total wealth of the country, and the top 5 per cent about 20–25 per cent. There was also a failure to acknowledge Ireland’s appalling infrastructure and housing problems’ (Ferriter 2004: 675). Sheridan had addressed issues such as crime, housing problems and unemployment in his earlier work with City Workshop and other companies, speaking out against the conditions of the working classes. This background shone through in the way in which he and Flynn interpreted Lucky in particular. When the production toured to the US, however, Flynn was unable to travel due to his criminal record in Ireland. John Dunne – an actor who had performed many of Shakespeare’s roles – took his place as Lucky. This change in casting facilitated the ways in which Sheridan’s production was further mapped onto Simpson’s for its outing at the Nazareth Arts Centre. Producer John Everett’s newsletter to Arts Centre subscribers, though peppered with errors, demonstrated a robust effort to promote the show through its authentic Irishness. Oscar’s production became ‘the 1985 Dublin revival of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece Waiting for Godot […] – the thirtieth anniversary revival of the English language premiere of Godot, which took place on April 5, 1955 at Dublin’s Pike Theatre […] presented by a company of Abbey theatre veterans who do Beckett justice’.5 It is clear that Everett had also read and found a unique selling proposition within Irish reviews of


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the production, misquoting Finegan as having written ‘Godot is back where it belongs – in a small theatre done wonderfully well’ (ibid.). Efforts to authenticate the production – and even to exoticize its cast members – are evident in a feature piece by Emily Morrison. Reflecting on her chat with Johnny Murphy, she described the performer’s ‘Irish lilt’ as sounding ‘positively exotic to jaded American ears’; she also quoted Everett’s assertion that the performers ‘use the authentic Dublin accent’ (Morrison 1985: 5). In addition, she offered the following more lengthy quote from Everett: ‘To appreciate the excitement that the production generated (earlier this year) among Irish audiences, you have to remember that Samuel Beckett, regardless of what language he writes in, is no less a Dublin native than Joyce or Yeats or Synge or indeed his own late friend, Brendan Behan’ (ibid.). Both in these comments and the newsletter Everett name-drops many famous Irish people and places in order to ensure brand recognition. An overall flattening of the ‘Irish Beckett’ brand was manifest throughout the international marketing campaign. Patrick Lonergan’s seminal study, Theatre and Globalization, argues that when Irish theatre of the Celtic Tiger era toured internationally, it was presented and marketed in ways that offered an internationally recognizable brand of Irishness (2009). Based on the public relations campaign built around Oscar’s Godot in the USA, that production might be seen as a 1980s’ precursor to such activities.

Women in Waiting In November and December 1991, Focus hosted another production of Godot by the Galway-based all-female company Taboo. The production had opened earlier that November at the Punchbag Theatre – a converted garage workshop in Galway. Produced after Beckett’s death, at a time when – as McTighe points out – Beckett’s canonization was reinforced by his ‘festivalization’ at the Gate Theatre (2013b: 158), this all-female Godot can be located within the context of international

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


feminist resistance to the patriarchal structures of established literary and dramatic canons. The proliferation of women’s theatre groups throughout the USA and Britain from the 1960s on, which sought to create experimental spaces ‘in opposition to male-dominated theatre’, is well documented within second-wave feminist scholarship (Aston 1995: 58). Similar groups were established to further women’s roles in Irish theatre. Also, as I have argued elsewhere, the mode in which now celebrated dramatist Marina Carr worked with independent companies during the late 1980s and early 1990s – and the genderconscious material that emerged from such collaborations – allows us to locate her early plays within national and international feminist theatre histories (O’Gorman 2014b). Galway’s all-female company Taboo also can be located within these contexts. Established in 1990, its first production was Pam Gems’s Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi (1976), generally thought to be a seminal work of latter second-wave feminism. Taboo emerged at a key moment for feminism in Ireland. The 1980s had been a highly contentious time for women’s rights. In 1986, for example, the proposal to remove prohibition on divorce in Ireland was defeated in a referendum, and a ruling of the Irish high court prohibited national distribution of information on obtaining an abortion in the UK, which was met with ongoing protests initiated by students and activists (Sweeney 2008: 178–9). However, 1990 became a time to celebrate some progress in relation to women’s roles, particularly in the public sphere, following the election of women’s rights activist Mary Robinson to the Irish presidency. Taboo’s impetus behind staging Godot was to explore the play in relation to ‘female representation’ and to examine how ‘this huge opus would pan out with a group of women’.6 The company invited visual and theatre artist Nora Connolly on board to direct the play. The group had enormous respect for Beckett’s work in general, and Godot in particular. Connolly maintains that she was unaware of both the Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festival, and Beckett’s objection to women playing the roles of men in the play (Connolly 2015a). Connolly had seen several productions of Godot, including the Schiller Theater Company’s landmark production when it toured to


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

London’s Royal Court in 1976. Before rehearsals began, she researched Beckett’s notes at Bishops Gate Library, making copious records particularly on ‘Beckett’s instructions about direction which had been annotated in connection with the Schiller Company production’ and setting out with ‘the ambition to create this production respecting and applying all of Beckett’s artistic format’ (ibid.). The company was entitled to apply for amateur rights since it had no funding. In its application, it declined to mention that it was an all-female company, and the rights were twice granted by the Dublin representative of Samuel French Publishers in London – once for the production at the Punchbag Theatre in Galway, and again when it toured to Focus in Dublin. Liz Brogan played Estragon and Fiona Kelly played Vladimir, with Kelly’s son Barry taking on the role of the boy because he ‘was a bright young actor, played his part brilliantly and on a practical level was at all times chaperoned by his mother playing Vladimir’ (ibid.). Amanda Stuart and Ellie Cummins took on the roles of Pozzo and Lucky respectively. They were all, according to Connolly, costumed ‘in the traditional manner’ (ibid.). She continues: ‘That is to say – shabby, worn out gentlemen’s dress suits, belts and braces – and of course the key items that are iconic to any production – the boots and the bowler hats!’ (ibid.). Their intention was not to offer a sardonic drag version of Godot, but to seriously explore the roles from their own perspectives (Brogan 2015).7 As such, they played it in their own voices and allowed their feminine appearances to shine through, which irked Gerry Colgan, who called into question the credibility of the production and indirectly suggested that the women should ‘disguise their sex’ when he reviewed its Dublin outing for the Irish Times (1991c). Connolly also took on the role of designer. The tree was a real tree from Barna Woods and the low mound on which Estragon sits was a rock from the bogs of Connemara; both were hauled to the city centres of Galway and Dublin (Connolly 2015b). Connolly painted a brightly coloured setting directly onto the walls of the playing areas of both the Punchbag and Focus theatres, drawing on her visual arts background and taking inspiration from ‘Pozzo’s references to the firmament,

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


twilights and the sky with its tireless torrents’ (Connolly 2015a). The colours billowed upwards from black to dark blue at the bottom, to the peach and golden hues of sunrise or twilight in the middle, with some blue and white cloud-like shapes at the top. Painted using household emulsion in large sweeping brushstrokes, the colours swirled, melded and mottled together, capturing a sense of the sky in motion and the passage of time, reminiscent perhaps of both nineteenth-century impressionism and its romantic prefigurations in the work of J. M. W. Turner. Colgan, however, dismissed Connolly’s set as ‘altogether too garish for the work’s sombre tones’, tones which for him were further eroded by ‘unwonted vivacity in the performances’ (1991c). Despite Taboo’s earnest intentions, the ways in which the production was received and framed by the press, both locally and nationally, revealed trepidation surrounding women playing central male roles in the work of an internationally important dramatist who had recently been repatriated within the Irish canon. Judy Murphy, reviewing for the Galway Advertiser, saw Godot as entirely unsuitable for this all-female company, in addition to criticizing the production values generally. The company was also interviewed on local radio, as well as by Margareta D’Arcy on her Pirate Women radio station. D’Arcy focused on ‘what in her opinion was Beckett’s misogyny and challenged [them] on that topic most acerbically’ (Connolly 2015a). By the time the production reached Dublin, Colgan was careful to begin his review with the following disclaimer: I’m half afraid that, if I say the wrong thing here, I may be hauled off to some sex equality tribunal and thumped. So let me affirm that women should be able to tackle stage roles created for men, become Catholic priests and invade any other male preserve as their talents and energies may dictate. It was necessary to say that because I sincerely disliked the all-female production of Waiting for Godot presented at the Focus Theatre. (Colgan 1991c)

Despite this disclaimer, as already noted, it appears that Colgan might have accepted female representation in Godot if it amounted to male


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

impersonation, and the language he uses points to anxiety concerning this particular ‘invasion’ of a ‘male preserve’. However, although critics disliked the production, there is evidence to suggest a more positive public reception – at least in Galway. Murphy’s largely negative review attracted letters of complaint and the Galway Advertiser dedicated a full broadsheet page to their publication, along with a short response from Murphy. One complainant praised Taboo for ‘electrifying passages of this “man’s play” that the Dublin Beckett Festival rushed through and failed to explore’, asking ‘why can’t the representative voice for the human condition be that of a woman?’ (Letters 1991). The same writer went on to lament the exclusion of women in Western theatre history and to describe Godot as a text that has ‘been overly stilted by its author’s well-known conventions’, commending the group for making us ‘realise that Beckett the iconoclast has become an icon, and a writer who would break old moulds has been himself trapped in a mould’ (ibid.). Another writer challenged the review on its ‘viciousness’, accused Murphy of trying to destroy Taboo, and made a list of objections to the critic’s views, including ‘Women do have erections’ (ibid.). Yet another described the review as ‘unjust and vindictive’, asserting that ‘J.M.’ must be ‘sexually ignorant’ to not factor in women having ‘clitoris and nipple erections’ (ibid.). Taboo’s Godot was well attended, opening to a full house at the Punchbag, and continuing to attract a healthy stream of audiences in both Galway and Dublin (Connolly 2015a). Additional publicity emerging from the mounting controversy surrounding the production may well have contributed to this. The night before it was due to open in Dublin, Taboo received a fax from Samuel French Ltd on behalf of the Beckett Estate, threatening an injunction and stating that the use of women actors in Godot was a copyright infringement. Taboo decided to go ahead with the performance, but before the show began, the cast and director lined up on stage while producer Berni Smyth read out a statement, explaining the situation and that this might be Taboo’s first and last presentation of Godot at the Focus (ibid). Connolly then read lines from near the end of the play’s first act, a conversation between

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


the tramps concerning Estragon comparing himself to Christ. She retrospectively explains her reasons as follows: At that moment in time – to be denied to explore this play, to experience it, to connect with the internal pain, the passion, the strife, the yearning – the humour – was to feel excluded from a vital life force, to be denied participation in one of the major tenets of Western Christian ethos. Salvation. Truly we women were clearly told our place and ironically – like the name of our theatre company – we were TABOO! (Ibid.)

Taboo and Samuel French exchanged several phone calls, letters and faxes throughout the entire week of the run, and the press reported on the situation. Samuel French finally reiterated the Beckett Estate’s complete disapproval of the production, but stated that no legal action would be taken. However, Connolly and her associates were banned from ever again performing the work of Beckett, or any playwright represented by Samuel French.8 Taboo had sought creative freedom within the restrictions of Godot, a text that the company clearly respected. Right before coming to Galway to direct the play, Connolly had seen a production at the Queen’s Theatre in London and was dismayed by the fact that actors were allowed to ‘improvise and go off text at certain points’; she set out for Galway having resolved to approach her own project of staging Godot with far greater reverence, describing Taboo’s method as ‘totally orthodox’ (Connolly 2015a). In relation to Beckett’s theatre, McMullan points out that ‘the regulation of proper norms of identity and behaviour through linguistic, social, cultural or political authority is regularly parodied or exposed as coercive’ (2010: 4). Yet, despite the resistance of Beckett’s theatre to ‘the stable contours of a normative identity or body’ (ibid.), he was prescriptive about which bodies appeared and how they behaved in his work. He had objected to several women’s theatre groups staging Godot throughout the 1980s, and had brought a case against Dutch theatre company De Haarlemse Toneelschuur over this issue; he lost that case and instead initiated


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

a short-lived ban on all productions of his work in the Netherlands (Knowlson 1996: 610). More recently, the Beckett Estate took an Italian company to court for a 2006 production of Godot at the Pontedera Theatre, Tuscany, which drafted in sisters Luisa and Silvia Pasello at short notice to replace male performers playing the tramps. The judge ruled against the Beckett Estate, a decision that the theatre company’s lawyer hailed as a victory for civil rights (McMahon 2006). The efforts of Beckett and the Beckett Estate to keep women out of Godot appear doomed to failure. Connolly, Brogan and Kelly9 all maintain that Taboo was not courting controversy by staging Godot with female performers, but it certainly garnered huge controversy, which this small company was ‘not equipped to handle’ (Brogan 2015). When asked whether it affected Taboo’s progress going forward, Brogan (now a practising optician) moderately affirmed that ‘it certainly didn’t help’ (2015). Taboo lasted another few years, after which its activities dwindled. It concentrated on plays for women actors, following Godot in 1992 with a production of Bryony Lavery’s Origin of the Species, also directed by Connolly. Without Connolly, Taboo produced Jean Genet’s The Maids and Tennessee Williams’s Hello from Bertha – both of which, incidentally, are also represented by Samuel French. It appears that the ban on Connolly’s ‘associates’ producing any plays represented by these agents was as impotent as the attempts of Beckett and his estate to prevent women ‘waiting for Godot’. This chapter has sought to extend and update Murray’s survey by examining productions of Beckett’s work from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s at the Focus – a theatre that, despite a long history in Dublin and a significant contribution to Irish performer-training, remains underexplored. Examining and historically contextualizing these productions, with a particular emphasis on the specificities of each company’s approach, sheds further light on Ireland’s changing relationship with Beckett. McMullan resists prescribing an authentic approach to performing Beckett’s works (2010: 3). Yet these productions and their critical receptions reveal an ongoing balancing act

Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot


between treating Beckett’s work as iconic on the one hand, and iconoclastic on the other. Their stagings offer a glimpse into how a number of small Irish theatre companies have negotiated the paradoxes of Beckett’s theatre, in that ‘privileging the original text goes against much of the aesthetic principles under which Beckett laboured, working as he did to diminish the puissance of the author-figure within his texts’ (McTighe 2013b: 165). This illuminates how theatre companies deal with issues of authorship and the authority of texts more generally, as well as how, inevitably, the meanings of theatre depend on ‘the material conditions, both theatrical and cultural, within which and through which it is received, conditions which function as its political unconscious, speaking through the performance text whatever its manifest content or intent’ (Knowles 2004: 10).

Part 2

Cultural Contexts


‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’: Destitution in Waiting for Godot in Relation to the Irish Performance Tradition Paul Murphy

In 1969 Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature ‘for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation’ ( The etymology of destitution derives from the latin destitutus, meaning to be abandoned or forsaken. In Waiting for Godot Vladimir and Estragon are famously abandoned by Godot but they are also destitute in the more common understanding of the word insofar as they are indigent and homeless. Vladimir and Estragon are perhaps the most famous in a long line of comic pairings in Irish performance history stretching back through the plays of Seán O’Casey and J. M. Synge. As with their theatrical forebears Vladimir and Estragon are destitute to the extent that they are lacking in worldly goods and a reliable source of income. While they are not literally described as tramps in Beckett’s play the performance tradition of Godot since its inception has portrayed the two men as tramps in a comparable manner to similar figures portrayed in the work of Beckett’s Irish predecessors. In terms of scholarship on Beckett’s plays relatively little work has been done on the status of Vladimir and Estragon as economically destitute characters, not least in terms of the context in which they were performed in the Irish premiere of the play at the Pike Theatre, Herbert Lane, Dublin, directed by Alan Simpson, on 28 October 1955. This chapter will


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

situate this production in terms of the performance tradition of the Irish comic male pair, who are invariably indigent characters, and moreover will examine Vladimir and Estragon’s social status in relation to the economic situation in Ireland at the time of the 1955 premiere. The aim is to revise the accepted view of these two iconic characters as embodying the ‘destitution of modern man’ and focus instead on their destitute status in relation to the recurrent problem of indigence in Ireland over successive decades in the twentieth century leading up the Irish premiere of Godot in 1955. The contention is that the representation of indigence in landmark productions in the Irish performance tradition constitutes a mediation of the brute facts of poverty, insofar as such characters become ciphers through which the fraught issue of class disparity can be mediated variously through comic, tragicomic or absurdist forms of theatrical representation. Theatre is a multi-dimensional art form ranging from the play on the page to the play on the stage and Beckett Studies has, with a number of important exceptions (Brater 1987; Kalb 1989: Ben-Zvi 1990; Knowlson 1992–3; Bradby 2001, for example), tended to focus on the former rather than the latter. An obvious reason for this is that theatre as performance is an ephemeral event that for the vast majority of the time goes undocumented and unrecorded. If a performance event evokes a particularly strong reaction from audiences or the critical community, as in the case of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and Seán O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), then sufficient material is generated in the form of letters, articles in periodicals and related documentation to form the basis of seriously scholarly investigation of the reception of the play. Occasionally a member of the production team keeps legible notes and fortunately in the case of the Dublin premiere of Godot the director Alan Simpson collated his experiences in Beckett and Behan, and a Theatre in Dublin (1962). Throughout his notes on the Godot production Simpson emphasizes the Irish dimension, suggesting that those who have only ‘seen or read his plays outside Ireland’ never seem to realize ‘how “Irish” his dialogue is’ (1962: 68). Simpson suspects that Beckett ‘unconsciously visualizes

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


his characters’ in terms of the ‘great Abbey actors of his student days’, specifically Barry Fitzgerald and F. J. McCormick (ibid.). Moreover Beckett ‘himself says that he was influenced by J. M. Synge, but his dialogue flows best in the Dublinese which, in heightened form, is the language of O’Casey and of Brendan Behan’ (ibid.). Beckett provides evidence to support Simpson’s view in his open admiration for O’Casey as ‘a master of knockabout in this very serious and honourable sense. […] This is the energy of his theatre, the triumph of the principle of knockabout in situation, in all its elements and on all its planes, from the furniture to the higher centres’ (Beckett 1984b: 82). James Knowlson’s landmark biography of Beckett, Damned to Fame, supports Simpson’s assertions about Synge’s influence but less about other Irish dramatists: ‘Yet the revivals of John Millington Synge’s plays at the Abbey were of greater significance to Beckett than the work of any other Irish dramatists. When I asked him who he himself felt had influenced his own theatre most of all, he suggested only the name of Synge’ (Knowlson 1996: 56–7). Alongside Synge’s dramatizations of the rural poor, Beckett was informed by the revues and music hall routines he witnessed at the Gaiety, the Olympia and the Theatre Royal whose strong emphasis on theatricality in the variety billing contrasted with the rise of realist plays staged at the Abbey by Lennox Robinson and T. C. Murray. The cinema was also a source of inspiration for Beckett, who was fascinated by the early silent films of Buster Keaton and those of Charlie Chaplin, especially The Kid, The Pilgrim and The Gold Rush. According to Knowlson this love ‘of old music-hall and circus routines’ was to remain with Beckett and resurface later in ‘the tricks to which the tramp-clowns of Waiting for Godot have recourse in a desperate attempt at “holding the terrible silence at bay”’ (ibid., 57). Knowlson contends that the play also emerges from Beckett’s Irish background insofar as the world the characters inhabit ‘sleeping in ditches, waiting by the roadside, eating scraps from chicken bones – the lineage of the tramps and the less easily defined “feel” of the characters (even in French) is unmistakably Irish. As so often with Beckett, his inspiration is literary: the world of John Millington Synge’s tinkers and beggars.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Beckett admitted to feeling a great debt to Synge’ (ibid., 379). Early in 1950 Roger Blin, who directed the world premiere of Godot, talked with Beckett ‘about his deep interest in the Irish theatre and the two men discovered that they shared an admiration for the plays of Synge’ (ibid., 385). For Knowlson, the originality of Godot ‘lies in the concrete reality of the silence that has somehow to be filled. So the trampclowns must talk, swap hats, eat carrots, play games so as “to hold the terrible silence at bay”’ (ibid., 380). Scholarship focusing on Beckett’s Irish provenance rarely engages with issues of class in relation to his biography, his plays or his prose.1 Beckett’s father died a year after Beckett resigned his assistant lectureship at Trinity College Dublin, leaving him ‘two hundred a year’ to live on (Simpson 1962: 69). Synge similarly had a ‘small private income’ (Foster 1995: 198) so neither of them endured poverty of the kind experienced by the characters in their plays or their realworld counterparts. Both were Trinity graduates from comfortable backgrounds: Synge a member of the fading Anglo-Irish Ascendancy (McCormack 1994: 33), Beckett the son of a quantity surveyor whose ancestors were master builders who had constructed some of Dublin’s most prestigious buildings including the National Library of Ireland. Conditions Beckett experienced during his time in the French Resistance in the Second World War may well have informed his rendering of the tramps’ meagre existence (Knowlson 1996: 380), but he had a choice in whether to join the Resistance and endure the attendant privations. The tramp figures that Beckett drew upon from the work of Synge and Chaplin function as ciphers in the broader meaning of the word, insofar as they are enigmatic characters who variously rely on guile and charm to eke out a living, but who are socially insignificant and effectively zeros2 in terms of their economic status and treated as such in the social hierarchy. More importantly the tramps’ indigent status is effectively zeroed out in their rendering as clowns to the extent that the ‘tramp-clown’ (the phrase is Knowlson’s) functions as a modern-day Everyman whose misadventures and comic routines serve to mediate the misery

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


of economic destitution. The fee-paying audience member, whether working class, middle class or aristocrat, can thus enjoy the antics of Synge’s tinkers or Chaplin’s tramp without having to encounter a real homeless person, aside from hurrying past them on the street on the way to the theatre or cinema. The real homeless people outside the performance venue are too busy holding hunger and the elements at bay to be worried about the ‘terrible silence’ that presumably represents the existential ache of the philosopher-playwright. The ‘modern man’ whose destitution Beckett elevates in his plays is a typically modernist construct, denounced as a universalizing myth by Roland Barthes in his essay ‘The Great Family of Man’. Birth and death may for example be ‘universal’ facts of life but Barthes makes the point that ‘if one removes History from them, there is nothing more to be said about them; any comment about them becomes purely tautological’ (Barthes 1972: 101).3 Beckett’s tramps become universal ciphers precisely because they have had history removed from them and placed in a cosmic limbo where the facts of destitution in the material sense are elided by a preoccupation with ‘Schopenhauerian willlessness’ (Knowlson, 1996: 364). Although one should acknowledge the historicizing turn in Beckett Studies (see for instance Roach 2009 on historical traces and trauma within Godot) and the fact that there are references to hunger in the text and its productions, nonetheless the emphasis in Simpson’s production risks taking attention away from destitution as a material condition and towards destitution as a more general condition affecting modern man on a philosophical level. The clowning mollifies rather than attenuates the tramps’ indigence. In the Brussels production of Godot, Simpson notes that ‘a scandalized old lady stood up and shouted to her astonished companions in the stalls: “Why don’t they work?” Some wit in the upper part of the theatre, shouted back: “Because they haven’t time’” (Simpson 1962: 77). The phrase ‘waiting for Godot’ crept into ‘journalistic usage’ according to Simpson over all sorts of ‘irrelevant subjects’ (ibid., 83) but the issue of work and employment in relation to the play and its popularized title became the casus belli for one acrimonious debate in the pages of


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the Irish Times. A piece by ‘Aknefton’ entitled ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot?’ published less than a month after the Irish premiere describes the columnist’s car journey around Dublin city, noting that outside each ‘public house and betting office’ there were groups of men, ‘most of them young, just lounging, doing nothing, going nowhere: waiting for Godot, perhaps’ (1955: 4). Most of them ‘were just ordinarily clad, hands in their pockets, eyes half-dead – “corner-boys” as the last generation would have described them’ (ibid.). Aknefton assumes that they ‘must have been unemployed or they could not have been loafing outside a public-house or a bookie’s office at 4.30 pm on a Thursday afternoon’ (ibid.). The columnist goes on to state that his observations are not an ‘attack upon the unemployed’, suggesting that there is ‘nobody deserving of more sympathy than the man who has had a job and lost it and urgently needs another’ (ibid.). Apparently you ‘can recognize his type at once. His cuffs may be frayed, but his ancient suit is scrupulously clean and his pants are pressed: he doesn’t lounge against a wall, but gives the impression that he is in a hurry to go somewhere, even if he has nowhere to go’ (ibid.). As far as Aknefton is concerned it ‘is not the unemployed, but the unemployable who deserve censure’ (ibid.). For Aknefton the ‘unemployable’ include the then recent phenomenon of ‘Teddy Boys’ who allegedly ‘crop up throughout the ages as one of the aftermaths of war or famine’ (ibid.). After the Russian revolution such ‘juvenile delinquents’ allegedly roamed around ‘like hyenas, stealing, looting and raping’ until they were ‘rounded up and shot’ (ibid.). Aknefton’s recommendation for such irredeemable individuals is ‘industrial conscription, a matter of inducing discipline at an early age, a problem ‘which might be solved by the Minister for Defence or the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or both jointly’ (ibid.). The hardline conservatism inherent to Aknefton’s article was a hallmark of the Catholic bourgeois nationalism that had become hegemonic since Ireland gained independence from British rule in 1921. This was followed by the Irish Civil War of 1922–3 between two factions whose political representatives would coalesce respectively

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


into two right-wing parties, specifically Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which would go on to dominate Irish politics for the next century. The provisional government that emerged from the Civil War, led by William Cosgrave, ‘took the view that the poor were responsible for their poverty. They should pay for their lack of moral fibre’ (Lee 1989: 124). According to J. J. Lee, the cabinet waged a ‘coherent campaign against the weaker elements in the community. The poor, the aged, and the unemployed must all feel the lash of the liberators’ (ibid.). Cosgrave ‘institutionalised the neglect of labour’ by demoting the Department of Labour, ‘established by the first Dáil, to a mere section of the Department of Industry and Commerce’ (ibid., 126). Patrick McGilligan, Minister for Industry and Commerce, argued that ‘it is no function of government to provide work for anybody’.4 Rising unemployment in the 1920s was an embarrassment to the new Irish government and statistics about actual levels of unemployment were variously endorsed or disavowed depending on the level of discomfiture they created. John Hooper, the government’s chief statistician, dismissed the 1926 census indicating a rate of 11.9 per cent unemployment (thus contradicting the official rate of 6 per cent) because it included ‘unemployables’.5 Tom Garvin suggests that it took what was seen as ‘the economic disaster of the mid-1950s and the ageing of the Boys of the Old Brigade to force real change; there was a genuine problem of gerontocracy’ (2004: 27). In the 1950s, ‘the facts of economic life and electoral pressure began gradually to nullify the special interests of older business, ecclesiastical, cultural and labour elites, the people who had, essentially, carved up the entire country into a set of fiefdoms after 1920 and 1932’ (ibid.) The consequences of the recommendations of Minister for Finance T. K. Whitaker and the decisions of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Sean Lemass in modernizing the economy from 1959 to 1966 were crucial but ‘equally so was the weakening of the ageing hands of Eamon de Valera, Thomas Derrig and John Charles McQuaid, whose collective dream of moral community (“a Christian Civilisation”) which was authentic, pious, static and intellectually homogeneous was briefly realised in the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

1932–1948 period’ (ibid.). The mid-1950s ‘were likely to have been a troubled time for the economy in any case, due to deteriorating terms of trade. […] The relentless pursuit of deflation even when the balance of payments deficit virtually vanished, and while the external reserves were actually rising in 1953 and 1954, further accentuated the slump’ (Lee 1989: 325). Furthermore, ‘the lack of confidence in the economy, associated with falling employment and population, created an atmosphere unfavourable to the enterprise required for successful entry into export markets’ (Kennedy and Dowling 1975: 216). The issue of ‘unemployables’ then is central to the social and economic context in which the article by Aknefton in the Irish Times drew an indignant response from Sean Nolan, a member of the public who, referring to the ‘corner boys’ loafing outside ‘public houses and betting shops’, argued that the description ‘would be more appropriate for another kind to be found lounging in the coffee-houses and lounge bars around Grafton Street, St. Stephen’s Green and Baggot Street. They are the people waiting for “Godot”’ (1955: 5). The presumably educated, middle-class individuals to whom Nolan refers allegedly ‘have no problem as to where the next meal or night’s shelter is to come from. It is they who have the time and money to bother about and discuss for hours the inane, purposeless philosophy of “Godot”’ (ibid.). Addressing the class disparity between the two social groups and the economic malaise of the mid-1950s Nolan asks: ‘Is there any greater reason why this class of idle youth “deserve censure” than the idle, but well dressed, youth who frequent Grafton Street and its environs? Are both types not victims of a society which fails to provide them with the opportunities and confidence to be useful and gainfully employed citizens?’ (ibid.). Referring to the play Nolan contends that ‘“Aknefton” seems to have drunk deeply of the philosophy of “Godot”.’ Despair abounds in his column – so much so that he appears to favour a Hitler-type of industrial conscription for our youth from 14 years onwards’ (ibid.). The debate continued a few days later when a letter to the editor under the pseudonym ‘Mental Health’ focused on the circumstances that render an individual ‘unemployable’: ‘Surely

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


we must judge before passing sentence, and before judging we must know the facts of the case. Who are the unemployable young people of our city – that is unemployable without any physical reason – and what conditions have rendered them unemployable?’ (1955: 5). The article continues in a reasoned analysis of the conditions leading to unemployability, citing parental support, social injustice and mental health among the array of determining factors. What is perhaps most interesting about this debate, inspired as it is by the ‘unemployable’ qua ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’, is the level of social inquiry into the conditions leading to social destitution that is displaced in Simpson’s production by existential musing on the destitution of modern man in an abstract, philosophical sense. The fact that Simpson dismisses the substance of the debate that Aknefton ignited as ‘irrelevant subjects’ is indicative of his interpretation and also the general reception by theatre critics and the scholarly community thereafter in terms of the focus on destitution apropos of Godot as a philosophical rather than material problem. Simpson notes that in Dublin, ‘the critical appraisal of the play was […] more universally favourable than in any other city. […] partly due to the fact that […] the dialogue is more entertaining in Dublinese, so it is easier for the audience to enjoy the play […] and partly […] because many of the Dublin critics were regular readers of the Sunday Times and the Observer’ wherein Tynan and Hobson respectively had given positive reviews (1962: 77–8). The review by ‘K’ in the Irish Times follows this consensus as indicated in the opening line: ‘Two scrofulous tramps scuffle about in a desperate dead end, Chaplinesque scarecrows, invested with the tattered dignity that gives Chaplin a gleam of tragedy when he is at his most ludicrous’ (1955: 3). The Chaplinesque quality imbues the scarecrows with wit and charm, and the tattered dignity gives Chaplin and by extension Beckett’s tramps a noble gleam of tragedy even at their most ludicrous and ignoble moments. What this review and the subsequent consensus surrounding the play amounts to is nothing less than the comic mediation of the pain and humiliation of poverty. The issue of comic mediation is nothing new of course;


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Aristotle observed that comedy is ‘an imitation of inferior people – not however, with respect to every kind of defect: the laughable is a species of what is disgraceful. The laughable is an error or disgrace that does not involve pain or destruction; for example, a comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not involve pain’ (1996: 9). The social aspect of Aristotle’s observation takes on a classed dimension in terms of what ‘distinguishes tragedy and comedy from each other; the latter aims to imitate people worse than our contemporaries, the former the better’ (ibid., 5). In terms of the review by ‘K’ in the Irish Times the wit and charm demonstrated by the tramp-clowns endears them to the audience and elevates their destitution to the level of tragedy while their ludicrous behaviour mollifies the rudeness of their indigent circumstances for the polite theatregoer. In the review ‘K’ notes that the ‘tramps are played in broad Dublin dialect by Austin Byrne [as Estragon] and Dermot Kelly [as Vladimir]’, something that Simpson was keen to emphasize in his direction as his ‘immediate reaction’ on receiving the script from Beckett ‘was that the two tramps should be played as two Dublin characters’ (Simpson 1962: 121). Simpson compares accent and education with the English system wherein ‘the public school and Establishment implications of a certain type of accent make it essential for the director to decide, when casting, exactly what social background a character comes from’ (ibid., 99). In Ireland by contrast accents are apparently ‘regional and not social. It is therefore much more difficult to pin down a person’s “status” from their way of speech’ (ibid., 99). It is curious that Simpson makes such a distinction as even within the greater Dublin area wealthier neighbourhoods such as Donnybrook and Ranelagh are as synonymous for their loftier ‘D4’ accents as poorer areas such as Ballymun and Tallagh are for their broader accents, the latter typified in the phraseology used in O’Casey’s Dublin plays. Simpson recalls that when he reproduced the play at the Theatre Workshop ‘some of the London critics attacked the concept of using a Dublin dialect for the tramps’ (ibid., 122). He defends his dramaturgical decision by arguing that ‘the personal feelings of the producer are important, because if he has a particular

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


conception of how the dialogue of any play should be spoken’, going so far as to state that ‘a Dublin dialect is helpful to the fullest interpretation of the play’ (ibid.). It is telling then that Simpson chooses a broad Dublin accent for the two tramps in his staging of Godot because, in his view, it corresponds to the social background he wished to evoke for Vladimir and Estragon, specifically one of limited means and education. Simpson contends that when the play was originally acted in French ‘the question of dialect didn’t arise’, because there was ‘no reason why the tramps should not speak perfect French. Accent in France is not a matter of class or education, except in the extremes of provincial patois or Parisian argot’ (ibid.). In the English translation, Beckett ‘has used a number of long or erudite words, which would sound strange coming from the mouth of a Cockney, or even a Liverpudlian. If it is played with an Old Vic or Oxford accent … one is immediately faced with the slight puzzlement of how someone so erudite could become such a scrofulous hobo’ (2011b). On this contradiction between class and education in the tramps’ dialogue Enoch Brater notes that ‘when the critic Vivian Mercier complained that he sometimes made his characters “sound as though they have PhDs”, Beckett’s calculated response was both self-conscious and evasive: “How do you know they hadn’t?”’ (2011: 91). The incongruity between the tramps’ lumpenproletarian6 status and their linguistic arabesques render them as objects of potential ridicule for the fee-paying audience and most especially the literati who would appreciate the highbrow references uttered by the scrofulous7 vagabonds. Simpson continues in his preoccupation with class and education but stumbles somewhat when it comes to cultural and linguistic differences,8 contending that: ‘the Dubliner of humble circumstance, like his Negro or Indian counterpart, tends to use longer words and more elegant syntax than his educational level would seem to warrant by English standards’ (Simpson 1962: 122–3). Simpson argues that ‘“For the moment, he’s inert but he might run amuck any minute,” sounds plausible in a Dublin voice, while the word “inert”, coming from the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

mouth of an English tramp, would sound strange’ (ibid., 123). Simpson maintains that ‘Dublin down-and-outs sometimes misuse long words, or use them in a slightly unusual way’ (ibid.), citing Vladimir’s line ‘But it’s not for nothing I’ve lived through this long day and I can assure you it’s very near the end of its repertory’ (Beckett 2006: 80), among others, as evidence of how well the line flows in spite of the malapropism of repertory for trajectory. Indeed the use of malapropism with its intended comic effect was a staple of Seán O’Casey’s plays whose knockabout Beckett admired and whose Dublinese Simpson employed in his production. The comic effect of malapropism in Godot and in O’Casey’s plays is based on the ignorance of the impoverished characters, whose lack of education results in their misuse of language. In this extract from O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) the malapropism is based on the misuse of ‘parrot talks’ for ‘paradox’: Mrs. Henderson  Them words is true, Mr. Gallicker, and they aren’t. For to be wise is to be a fool, an’ to be a fool is to be wise. Mr. Gallogher [with deprecating tolerance]  Oh, Mrs. Henderson, that’s a parrotox. Mrs. Henderson  It may be what a parrot talks, or a blackbird, or, for the matter of that, a lark – but it’s what Julia Henderson thinks, any … whisht, is that a Stop Press? (O’Casey 1952a: 121)

The characterization in this and similar instances throughout the three Dublin plays that established O’Casey’s reputation is a caricature of the urban poor where cheap laughs emerge from the gaps in the characters’ education. The literati for the most part nonetheless found such instances to be wonderfully authentic, with P. S. O’Hegarty in the Irish Statesman calling the dialogue ‘a gramophone record of the Dublin accent and the Dublin tenement and the Dublin poor’.9 In spite of the fact that O’Casey subtitled each of his Dublin plays as a tragedy, comedy is interwoven to such an extent that they have been interpreted by successive generations of performers and received by

‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’


audiences and reviewers as tragicomedies. The major roles in O’Casey’s Dublin plays were performed by Barry Fitzgerald and F. J. McCormick, ‘the two finest comic actors in Abbey history’ (Krause 1982: 138), whose interpretations would become the standard by which O’Casey’s characters were represented on stage thereafter. The emphasis then from the earliest performances is on comedy over authenticity; essentially more grammar phony than gramophone. In The Plough and the Stars (1926) for example the dialogue relies on alliterative flourishes like Fluther Good’s (played by Barry Fitzgerald) ‘It would take something more than a thing like you to flutther a feather o’ Fluther’ (O’Casey 1952b: 209) or contrived expressions like Jack Clitheroe’s (played by F. J. McCormick) ‘A taste o’ me mind that’ll shock her into the sensibility of behavin’ herself ’ (ibid., 179). As Declan Kiberd suggests: Fluther’s repeated ‘derogatives’ invite the literate, theatrical audience to patronize rather than understand this half-articulate workman in a manner which is not all that different from the ‘superior’ British indulgence of blarney in the nineteenth century. The lovable peasant has been thereby introjected into the native Irish psyche, to reappear as a twentieth-century slum-dweller. The rolling cadences of Synge and the forms of the traditional Abbey play are ill-suited to the rhythms of urban life: O’Casey repeated but did not remodel them. (1996: 232)

Simpson responded to a similar critique to the one Kiberd makes about O’Casey’s Dublinese: ‘One English critic said of my recent production, “The language runs naturally into Irish cadences, but the trouble is that a good deal of it starts sounding like blarney.” To me at any rate, this is a good thing, if by “blarney” the critic means triviality’ (Simpson 1962: 123). In this regard Simpson adheres to Beckett’s penchant for triviality as a metaphor for the meaninglessness and absurdity of the modern world. Although Beckett, like most of the other playwrights categorized by Martin Esslin (1980 [1968])10 as belonging to the Theatre of the Absurd, was not comfortable with the designation, nonetheless Esslin hits a vein of truth in evoking Albert Camus’s ‘sentiment of absurdity’ from his essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ to convey the philosophical tone


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of Beckett’s plays. The image of Sisyphus endlessly pushing the boulder up the hill only to watch it fall down the other side is a universalizing metaphor to describe the common fate of humanity but, following Barthes, in order for it to function as a myth it must remain at one remove from history. Humanity only experiences an equally absurd condition if one ignores distinguishing factors such as race, gender and class, particularly in terms of how they can impact negatively on a person’s health and wellbeing in different situations. In spite of the Pike’s counter-cultural ethos (see O’Gorman: 2014a) the problem with Simpson’s production of Godot is that it trivializes poverty by zeroing out the facts of penury that are nonetheless intrinsic to the characterization and dialect that he chooses to emphasize in the Dublinese he employs in the production. When set against the economic malaise of 1950s Ireland and as an extension of the Irish performance tradition of the comic mediation of poverty in the figure of the tramp-clown, the Irish premiere of Godot is all the more ironic in terms of the focus on destitution as a matter of existential philosophy rather than material deprivation.


Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains Anna McMullan

Like all performance-based art, stage design (whether scenery, costumes, lighting or sound) is ephemeral. If it is not recorded, it disappears. The scenery will go to the landfill or elements of it will be broken down for re-use. The costumes will usually go to storage. The light and sound will never have had a tangible existence. And if the designs are not contextualized through scholarship, their meanings become obscure. (McKinnon and Fielding 2012: 11)

Since the 1990s, the field of Irish theatre history has been significantly broadened to include not only a genealogy of texts, but also a complex interweaving of text, context and performance.1 The visual impact of certain productions has helped shape an Irish iconography of cultural identity, memory and place, as with Joe Vaněk’s design for the 1990 Abbey premiere of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, directed by Patrick Mason, which toured internationally and was revived in 1999.2 Yet, as the above quote laments, many productions have not left such a publicly documented legacy: their remains have already disintegrated or have been discarded, and, until recently, design elements of the mise en scène have received little attention in reviews, publicity material or critical analyses. However, this is rapidly changing, as the growing interest in and critical discussion of Irish theatre on stage and Irish visual cultures more generally has led to an increased focus on stage design. The research field of scenography is expanding globally, with a number of journals now dedicated to this area.3 The increased use


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of the term scenographer rather than stage designer indicates the growing importance of the role. In Ireland, over the past few decades, the magazine Theatre Ireland (1982–93), the publications of Carysfort Press and the recently deceased Irish Theatre Magazine, have been crucial in documenting diverse aspects of performance practice in Ireland, including design. Since the new millennium, the focus on scenography has intensified. In 2004, the exhibition Scene Change, co-curated by Helen O’Donoghue and Vaněk at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin as part of the Centenary celebrations of the Irish National Theatre, offered a selected history of stage design at the Abbey and Peacock theatres (Donoghue 2004).4 Publications relating to Irish scenographic history include Elaine Sisson’s essay on Irish theatre and Expressionism in the 1920s (Sisson 2011) and recent research by Siobhán O’Gorman (2014a) and Christopher Morash and Shaun Richards (2013). Vaněk’s Irish Theatrescapes (2015) documents and reflects on his own scenographic career thus far, with contributions from many of the writers and directors he has worked with. In October 2014, a symposium on scenography bringing together scholars and practitioners was held at Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the Dublin Theatre Festival.5 This research is opening up a rich mine of Irish scenographic history, even though much work remains to be done. In relation to staging Beckett, Christopher Murray’s essay, ‘Beckett productions in Ireland: A Survey’, in the 1984 Irish University Review special issue on Beckett, is a key source of documentation and analyses of Irish productions of Beckett’s plays up until 1982, and Murray frequently comments on design. In general, though, the stage design of productions of Beckett’s plays (in Ireland and elsewhere) is an under-researched area.6 Understandably, such research is dependent on what can be remembered or recovered. This essay will begin by summarizing some recent debates about performance historiography which have particular relevance to stage design. I will then offer some general comments on the scenographic traces of staging Beckett in Ireland, and will focus on a few case studies of Waiting for Godot between 1955 and 1982.

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


What remains of performance? Documentation is never an accurate record of the performance itself, as many scholars have argued. Peggy Phelan is often quoted as emphasizing the ephemerality of performance, as when she argues that performance studies has ‘created and studied a discipline based on that which disappears, art that cannot be preserved or posted’ (Phelan 1998: 8). However, her argument about performance is in relation to an economy which identifies and regulates knowledge in terms of what is ‘postable and preservable information’ (ibid.). Performance does not just disappear, but has the potential to disrupt the ‘ideology of the visible’ (Phelan 1993: 1) by drawing attention to what escapes the archivable, to traces of loss and to a temporality which acknowledges that what is missing from institutional records and archives is an active absence which invokes ‘the future tense of our yet to be realized interpretation’ (Phelan 1998: 9). In Unmarked, Phelan acknowledges the ‘urgent pressure to account for what cannot be reproduced’ and emphasizes ‘the imperative to remember the undocumentable’ (1993: 31). In this context, ‘performance is the art form which most fully understands the generative possibilities of disappearance’ (ibid., 27). The traces of what is lost challenge us to remember and reinterpret these performances as part of an active dialogue in the present. Performance is therefore poised between disappearance and the traces of what remains. These tangible items, when they can be located, include, for example, photographs, programmes, posters, design sketches, reviews, and more recently, videos. Their relationship to performance is complex: they are the foundations or afterimages of performance, fragments that tantalize us because they offer a material remnant of something that is long gone, ghostly glimpses of the performance, taking us back in time to something we experienced a long time ago, or didn’t but wish we did, like catching tremors from a distant cultural event. In some cases, they take us behind the scenes, into the process of making or shaping the performance: this is particularly the case with design sketches and other design materials. Photographs


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

offer tantalizing but partial clues. Barbara Hodgdon argues that the theatrical still is only ever a mediated fragment which ‘seizes appearances’ and ‘violently severs them from their original context’ (2003: 89). In interview, Irish designer Monica Frawley articulated her own concerns about the inability of visual documentation to capture either the ‘organic process’ of performance or of memory itself as a performance that continues to influence its creators and its audiences: What you take away with you is not finished, it goes on in another way […] and in passing that on, outside of the video or photograph, as an audience member or a member of the creative team, you are adding your memory and your interpretation of what you saw, so it becomes a living thing, which moves on.7

However, Frawley also noted that the creative input of scenographers needs to be acknowledged: her own work has made an extremely important contribution to the impact of many contemporary and classic Irish plays in performance. Indeed Rebecca Schneider suggests that the material remains of performance such as theatre stills can function not just as atrophied fragments dislocated from the rhythm of a creative journey, but as the stimulus for a creative encounter which entangles past, present and future: ‘Can we think of the still not as an artifact of a non-returning time but as situated in a live moment of its encounter. […] This is to ask: is the stilled image a call towards a future live moment when the image will be re-encountered, perhaps as an invitation to response?’ (Schneider 2011: 141). Moreover, the visible remains of performance can be supplemented by the search for other evidence, such as oral interviews, which of course are also incomplete and sometimes contradictory. Therefore, the scenographic researcher is to a certain extent a ghost whisperer, attending to the scattered visual, textual, oral or digital traces which are missing from existing records of theatre and performance histories. Yet it is through such spectral encounters with remembered fragments and the haunting of material or digital remains that the practices of theatre artists such as scenographers

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


can become part of our cultural history, shaping our sense of what theatre is and what it can be. As Schneider emphasizes, even if we did not witness an event live, an encounter with its remains and traces, written, oral, visual or performed, may provide inspiration for future responses, interpretations and creative interventions. Given the lack of readily available information on the diversity of Irish theatre design histories in particular, the search for such remains may help to reveal genealogies and legacies which intersect with the growing awareness of Irish performance and visual cultures past and present. Beckett is a valuable filter through which to view Irish scenographic traces, as productions of his work reflect Irish theatre’s performance of its own dramatic genealogies at different moments, and its shifting relationship with traditions and practices from elsewhere.

Staging Beckett: Scenographic legacies This essay draws on archival and historical research, oral interviews, and a database of productions of Beckett’s plays in the United Kingdom and Ireland compiled as part of the Staging Beckett project, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.8 The Staging Beckett project has produced a considerable amount of data about venues, people and productions,9 but these names and dates are the dry bones of performance. What interests me is the process of animating the data to try, like a medium, to call up some traces of particular productions and their cultural and historical moment. This discussion of the design decisions and contexts of a few productions of Beckett’s plays in Ireland aims to revisit some familiar and some less familiar stages in Irish performance history as a contribution to the wider reclaiming of Irish scenographic genealogies and legacies. Beckett’s theatre is associated with a bare stage, but also with a tight choreography between the actor’s body, the space of the stage, lighting and sound, and a few minimal props, from the tree in Godot to the rocking chair in Rockaby. So in fact, scenography, the creation of an


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

environment for performance, is central to Beckett’s conception of theatre and to the realization of his plays in performance. Although the staging of his plays is already envisaged in Beckett’s stage directions, it is the designer who realizes the scenic environment of particular plays in production. Scenographer Pamela Howard comments that, though in plays like Krapp’s Last Tape ‘there appears to be nothing on stage, there is a huge amount of work to achieve that nothingness, and to find the right table and chair, and objects for the actor that are both practical and poetic’ (2002: 98). Several prominent designers in Ireland have worked on productions of Beckett’s plays, including Norah McGuinness, Abbey designers Wendy Shea and Bronwen Casson who designed several Beckett productions on the Peacock stage directed by Ben Barnes in the 1980s, artist Louis le Brocquy who designed the Gate Theatre’s iconic Godot (see McMullan and McTighe 2015), Frawley, and Vaněk who designed Corn Exchange’s 2010 Happy Days. The three productions of Godot explored briefly below (the Irish premiere at the Pike Theatre Dublin in 1955, the 1969 production on the Abbey main stage, and the 1982 production by the Irish Theatre Company), are from the decades before the Dublin Gate Theatre’s Godot, first presented in 1988 and directed by Walter Asmus, who had assisted Beckett when the author directed the play at the Schiller Theater in Berlin in 1975. The Gate’s Godot became the centrepiece of their 1991 Beckett Theatre Festival, and since then has been frequently revived and indeed, much photographed, so that it has become one of the most familiar visualizations of the play, compared to earlier productions, at least in Ireland. The three productions discussed below also resonate with the wider landscape of Irish theatre design, and make visible some of the ‘living legacies’ between networks of designers, directors and performers across institutions and generations. In different ways they negotiate Beckett’s relation to Irish theatre genealogies through references to place or costume. What remains of their interpretations of Beckett’s scenic spaces? And what can some of these traces tell us about the parallel histories of staging Beckett and scenographic practice in post-1950s Ireland?

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


1955: Godot arrives in Ireland The Irish premiere of Waiting for Godot opened in Dublin at the tiny Pike Theatre, directed by Alan Simpson, on 28 October 1955, a few months after the United Kingdom premiere at the Arts Theatre, London, on 3 August. The Pike Godot and its circumstances have been discussed in detail by other scholars (such as Morash 2002: 199–208), and McTighe (2013a) and O’Gorman (2014a) have analysed elements of its scenography in particular,10 so my focus is mainly on the overall climate of theatre design at this time and on Simpson’s approach to the play. Design had been important to Yeats’s concept of theatre in the early years of the Abbey: he commissioned artists and stage designers such as Charles Ricketts, Edmund Dulac, and Edward Gordon Craig to design his own plays, and ordered a set of Gordon Craig’s screens for the Abbey Theatre (Flannery 1989). However, Yeats’s poetic dramas did not achieve the popular audience he hoped for, and Morash and Richards note ‘the rapid consignment of the Craig screens to the Abbey prop store and the parallel ascendance of the realist box set in the repertoire’ (2013: 21). Theatre design was revived in the 1920s, when the Dublin Drama League’s experimental and expressionist repertory necessitated innovative approaches to stage design: the League employed Irish designers such as Norah McGuinness and Dorothy Travers-Smith (Katz Clarke and Ferrar 1979), who also occasionally designed for the Abbey. In the 1930s, the Gate Theatre, founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir, who had trained in design at the Slade, London, was particularly associated with experimental scenography. Under pressure from the visual production values of its neighbouring theatre, Hugh Hunt brought designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch to the Abbey on his appointment as play director in 1935.11 However, by the mid-1950s, the Abbey was in exile at the Queen’s Theatre following the fire which destroyed it in 1951; the larger size of the Queen’s led to a policy geared towards attracting regular audiences and filling the theatre. Moreover, Ernest Blythe, Managing Director


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of the Abbey from 1941 to 1967, while capable in financial matters, was notoriously resistant to experimental theatre. Vaněk comments: ‘The emphasis on maintaining standards became inevitably of much lesser importance. Out of the window went the notion of permanent design staff, and standards started to slip’ (O’Donoghue 2004: 31). The Gate Theatre was also past its heyday in the 1930s and was facing various financial and programming pressures in the 1950s (Pine 1978). Moreover, although the Arts Council of Ireland and the Design Council had both been established in 1951, this decade in the Republic of Ireland saw low economic growth and continued unemployment and emigration (Ferriter 2010: 462), so there was little money for companies to hire a professional theatre designer. Nevertheless, O’Gorman notes that, despite being run on a shoestring, the Pike Theatre, set up in late 1953 by Alan Simpson and his wife Carolyn Swift in order to produce innovative plays that were unlikely to appear on the commercial stages, demonstrated considerable interest in the overall design of the theatre space, and Simpson had a particular interest in lighting design (O’Gorman 2014a: 33). Because of financial pressures, activities were collaboratively shared out, as were any profits, among the Pike collective, with Simpson often undertaking design and lighting roles as well as directing. Pauline Bewick was both actor and scenic designer and Edmund Kelly was at once stage carpenter, electrician and resident stage manager (O’Gorman 2014a: 31–5). The Pike’s Waiting for Godot programme acknowledges this collaborative activity in the design and construction of the set: ‘Production and lighting directed and setting designed by Alan Simpson. Setting painted by Mira Burgess and constructed by Edmund Kelly.’12 Among the financial and practical challenges of the production was the regular sourcing of bowler hats (which get stamped on and otherwise mistreated during the performance) and cooked chicken for Pozzo’s basket (Simpson 1962: 81). Undoubtedly, Simpson was looking for a play that would boost both the Pike’s critical reputation and their box office income. The Pike’s first production was G. K. Chesterton’s play The Surprise, but in Simpson’s own words, it was ‘as dull as dishwater, and I am afraid not very well

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


done. … I realised that something a bit more stimulating would have to be dug up if our new venture was to be a success’ (Simpson 1962: 75). The critical controversies provoked by Godot’s previous Paris and London premieres were well covered by the Irish papers, but Simpson’s scenographic choices were geared to further encouraging Irish audiences to relate to this ‘avant-garde’ play by locating it within familiar Irish historical, literary and topographical landscapes. In her book Stage by Stage, Carolyn Swift writes: We used cloths, but painted in a mixture of browns and greens in blobs and splodges which, when lit, gave the effect of a continuous vista of what might be a bog, with a pathetic little willow in the foreground, its growth weakened and warped, as it would be in such a place, with nothing to shield it from the force of the west wind carrying rain clouds from the Atlantic. (1985: 190)

This evocation of a rural setting can be linked to a commodification or cultural consumption of recognizable images of the Irish landscape, as both O’Gorman and McTighe have discussed, but Swift’s description also evokes echoes of the bleak representation of the rural west of Ireland in such plays as Synge’s Riders to the Sea, suggesting that, in addition, the production was referencing familiar dramatic representations of stage itinerants, particularly in the work of Yeats and Synge. The reference to ‘weakened and warped’ growth also picks up the play’s references to the Famine when Estragon dives after the remains of Pozzo’s chicken bones, underlined by the refrain in Lucky’s speech: ‘the skull the skull in Connemara’ (Beckett 1986: 43). Indeed, the production foregrounded issues of historical dispossession through the casting and costuming of Nigel Fitzgerald as Pozzo. Fitzgerald, Simpson writes, ‘although, as he frequently points out, is completely Irish, was in the British Army during the war, and has a rich, fruity Anglo-Irish voice. […] The relationship between the tramps and Pozzo is thus comparable to that between the native Irish and an Anglo-Irish or English landowner’ (1962: 124–5). Likewise Simpson costumed Lucky, played by Donal Donnelly, in livery, like a footman in a ‘grand, but excessively


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

dilapidated’ Anglo-Irish Big House, his elaborate costume ‘moth-eaten and tattered’ (ibid., 126). In addition to these references to Irish history and landscape, Simpson incorporated Irish urban, and specifically Dublin speech rhythms: ‘When I first received the script from Sam Beckett, early in 1954, my immediate reaction was that the two tramps should be played as two Dublin characters’ (ibid., 121). Recognizing that ‘the dialogue is more entertaining in Dublinese’ (ibid., 78), Simpson was therefore able to draw not only on Irish audiences’ familiarity with stage tramps, but also on the enduring popularity of O’Casey’s Dublin plays and the double act of Joxer Daly and Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock, relocated to a desolate west of Ireland bogland. Simpson’s aim to build a rapport between the play and its Irish audiences was highly successful, since, as Morash points out, the Pike’s Godot broke all records for the ‘longest continuous run in Irish theatre history to that point’ (2002: 207). Over the next decade there were several productions of Beckett’s plays in Ireland north and south. There is not much existing documentation of the design elements of those productions, but by the late 1960s, stage design was being once more revived at the Abbey by a network of individuals and institutions.

1969: Godot on the Abbey main stage In 1969, Godot was presented on the main Abbey stage for the first time. Beckett was evidently considered to be an appropriate dramatist for the newly renovated theatre building, which opened in 1966. Shortly following the opening of the new Peacock Theatre in July 1967, Beckett’s Play was mounted along with a showing of Film, and Come and Go was presented at the Peacock the next year. The 1969 production of Godot is fascinating for many reasons but I will focus here on the scenographic context. This was a very important era for the Abbey: in 1966, Tomás Mac Anna was appointed as Artistic Adviser, and would become Artistic Director from 1973 to 1978. He announced to the Irish Times that

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


the new building was the impetus for a new direction: ‘The new facilities are going to make it easier for us to devise new and exciting productions.’13 Scenography was an essential ingredient of these new productions. Mac Anna was himself a stage designer of considerable innovation and experience, and brought in teams of other designers to work with him, including Christopher Baugh, who was teaching stage design at Manchester University at the time, and with whom both Mason and Vaněk would train. Baugh spoke to me about working with Mac Anna on his much revived 1967 production of Brendan Behan’s The Borstal Boy for which they stripped the stage of the brand new building, which had just opened, in order to expose the walls, a strategy inspired by Casper Neher, one of Brecht’s designers.14 Mac Anna had worked at the Berliner Ensemble in Berlin, and directed and designed a landmark production of Brecht’s Galileo in 1965 just before the Abbey players left their temporary home in the Queen’s Theatre.15 Baugh was also part of a network of designers around Hugh Hunt, who took up the post of Artistic Director at the Abbey on the day that Godot opened on 1 December. Hunt was appointed Professor of Drama at Manchester University in 1961, where Alan Barlow, with whom Hunt had worked at Bristol Old Vic after the war, was Head of Stage Design. Barlow and Baugh worked on several productions at the Abbey at that time: according to Vaněk, Barlow’s ‘bold and haunting staging of The Silver Tassie [directed by Hunt in 1972] was to establish without doubt the enormous contribution to the overall success of a production that can be made by the designer’ (O’Donoghue 2004: 42–3). These scenographic networks and experiments emphasize the Abbey’s policy of expanding and internationalizing its creative and dramaturgical repertoire in the new national theatre building. As Anthony Roche points out in this volume, it was originally Tomás Mac Anna and subsequently Alan Simpson (Artistic Adviser between 1968 and 1969) who inaugurated and supported the decision to present Waiting for Godot at the Abbey in December 1969. Scholars have remarked on the concern not only to reinvent the national theatre and ‘begin again’ in the new building, but to create a dialogue between


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

new directions and Abbey traditions and histories. The appointment of Hunt, associated with the pre-Blythe creative era of the late 1930s at the Abbey, was itself part of that dialogue. Moreover, Robert Welch suggests that in the general climate of change in the 1960s ‘there was a profound questioning of the relevance and complexity of remembrance itself ’, so that Beckett’s work not only broke with dramaturgical conventions of plot, set and character, but also challenged any complacent narrativizing of the past, while remaining ‘deeply enmeshed in the tangles and confusions of the past as they work upon memory and the present’ (Welch 1999: 209). The 1969 Abbey production of Godot indeed reflects a nexus of concerns, which include the marketing of an internationally renowned playwright, however ‘avant-garde’ the play, and a star performer in Peter O’Toole (the iconic film of Lawrence of Arabia which was O’Toole’s breakthrough premiered in 1962); the inclusion of up and coming talent in the director Sean Cotter, who had joined the Abbey production team in 1967, and the young actor, Donal McCann; and, in the choice of designer, a historical connection to that earlier heyday of Irish stage design in the 1920s. Norah McGuinness was commissioned to design the set and costumes – she had just had a major retrospective exhibition at Trinity College Dublin in 1967. McGuinness had designed Yeats’s Deirdre and The Only Jealousy of Emer at the Abbey in 1926, The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Lennox Robinson, also in 1926, and Georg Kaiser’s From Morn to Midnight, directed by Denis Johnston in 1927. After the 1920s, she mainly focused on her career as a fine artist until this production of Godot. Reviews are dominated by the double act of O’Toole and McCann, but do stress the dilapidated state of set and costumes. Seamus Kelly of the Irish Times commented that ‘Norah McGuinness’s set, with moon, and Leslie Scott’s lighting, caught all the desolation of Beckett’s wasteland’ (Kelly 1969). Murray cites further reviews: Both O’Toole and McCann were effectively costumed, ‘rigged out in indescribable tatters, with battered bowlers and Chaplin boots’ according to the Evening Press (2 December). ‘Even scare crows would

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


be better dressed’, said J. J. Finegan of the Evening Herald (same date) but added that ‘many of the lines make better sense … because of their spectacularly wretched appearance.’ Norah McGuinness’s set, an ‘island of boulders, topped by a withered tree’ as Finegan put it, was starkly appropriate. Black drapes upstage maintained the sense of enveloping infinity. (Murray 1984: 116)

Murray also notes that there was ‘no attempt to appropriate Beckett as an Irish writer’ (ibid., 115). Indeed, it was precisely Beckett’s international prestige that was the draw in an Ireland which was rapidly aligning itself with global consumerism. Nevertheless, a faded image from the Abbey’s ‘100 moments’ website indeed demonstrates the tattered quality of the costumes, which invoke both a popular iconography of Charlie Chaplin and the music hall, and also, as at the Pike Theatre, an Irish iconography of stage itinerants. Synge and Yeats would also be recalled in the 1982 production of Waiting for Godot staged by the Irish Touring Company, but through a very different scenic strategy.

1982: Godot’s ‘inner Irish landscape’ My final case study is the production of Waiting for Godot by the Irish Theatre Company (ITC) in 1982, directed by Ben Barnes. The ITC had been established in 1974 as a touring company. Christopher Fitz-Simon notes that this was ‘the era of Regionalisation and CrossBorder Co-Operation and both Arts Councils on the island were sensitive to the trend’ (1988: 19). Fitz-Simon took over as Artistic Director in 1979.16 However, the costs of touring rose and the Arts Council had a very tight budget so the Company was disbanded in 1982 after this production of Godot. The ITC Godot toured with J. M. Synge’s The Well of the Saints and W. B. Yeats’s On Baile’s Strand directed by Fitz-Simon. According to Murray, these were on a double bill, with Godot on alternate nights (1984: 120). Because of the financial constraints and the practicalities


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of touring to different spaces, the three plays had to share a basic set.17 The designer was Monica Frawley, who had been appointed resident designer for ITC after graduating from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and the Central School of Art and Design, London. Frawley would go on to design the costumes for Druid Theatre’s Waiting for Godot in 1987, and costumes and set for a production of Endgame by Belfast’s Prime Cut in 2006, as well as her landmark designs for Tom Murphy’s Too Late for Logic (1989), Synge’s The Well of the Saints (2004) and Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats (1998), among many others. While she was still an art student, Frawley did some scene painting work for the Peacock and Abbey stages, and in 1976 she worked in props for a double bill of The Piedish and The Enchanted Land by George Fitzmaurice, directed by Hunt and designed by Baugh. In 1980 she designed the costumes and set for G. B. Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island, directed on the Abbey stage by Mason, with Barnes as Assistant Director. In 1981 she designed set and costumes for Denis Johnston’s The Scythe and the Sunset, directed by Pat Laffan on the Abbey Stage – a decidedly non-naturalist portfolio. In interview with Derek West, Frawley writes that theatre ‘has to reach into the imagination’ (1989: 36), and acknowledges her interest in ‘pushing back the boundaries’ (ibid.). She discusses some of her inspiration for Murphy’s Too Late for Logic, directed by Mason, in the paintings of Magritte and the Wim Wenders film, Paris Texas. For the triple bill of Yeats, Synge and Beckett, she again looked to art for inspiration. In the beginning there were practical problems designing for the Irish Touring Company because everything toured. I was a very young designer, very inexperienced, and I remember the biggest concept I came up with was to draw on the artist Christo, and I wrapped the set for the first plays, Synge’s The Well of the Saints and Yeats’s On Baile’s Strand, in canvas, thus creating a totally different landscape for Godot.18

The art work of Christo (in collaboration with his wife Jeanne-Claude) consisted of ‘wrapping’ objects and architectural structures such as the

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


Pont Neuf in Paris or the Reichstag in Berlin. The idea of wrapping the set was not only a practical solution but a very resonant one, given the sense that, as the previous productions discussed above have implied, both Synge’s and Yeats’s plays haunt Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: The Well of the Saints is set at a crossroads with two itinerants passing the time till they hear of a priest who might cure their blindness, while On Baile’s Strand is set on a threshold between land and sea with its banter between the ragged Fool and the Blind Man. Yeats’s Purgatory with its blasted tree and homeless figures of the Old and the Young Man also echoes through Godot. Frawley described the three plays on the ITC bill as sharing ‘an Irish inner landscape, the idea of emptiness and bog and vastness, big skies – that’s very potent for Irish audiences’. So the concept of wrapping the set for the Synge and Yeats plays suggested ‘the feeling in the text of them being on top of something, there are layers underneath this landscape, like in Marina Carr’s Bog of Cats where the bog is holding stories and stuff from the past’. Godot combines specifically Irish echoes with glimpses of many historical moments and cultural texts, as Frawley comments: ‘With Lucky and Pozzo especially in Act 2 you have a strong sense of Tiresias, the blind seer, being led by the rope, there are layers of connection there.’ In his programme note, Fitz-Simon writes that Beckett’s play contains echoes not only of Yeats and Synge but of other avant-garde European plays such as those of Maeterlinck. Murray describes the set in some detail: To emphasize the kinship between Waiting for Godot and The Well of the Saints (via the work of Maeterlinck, cited in the same programme note) the setting was interchanged: that is, the set for The Well of the Saints was not struck but was covered (as was the floor) in white sheets. […] A black tree, however, was in evidence. […] The basic idea was to have Vladimir and Estragon come on to the set of another play and there, in a theatrical context, begin to wait for Godot. (Murray 1984: 121)

Likewise, Murray continues, the costumes ‘were mainly white or pastel, as Amelia Stein’s photographs indicate’ (ibid., 121). Frawley adds: ‘It came


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

from the idea that they were part of the landscape, and the landscape was wrapped up in canvas. There was also the idea of cricket whites, with Beckett playing cricket and so on.’ Indeed, she continued: ‘I remember using the idea of them being old Etonians, old public school guys who were down on their luck, who had lost everything’, so, for example, Barry McGovern as Vladimir wore a tattered Trinity College tie. As Murray notes, through its design concept, including the predominance of white in costume and set, the production ‘avoided the conventional images and intonations in which the play has commonly been seen and heard’ (Murray 1984: 121). Such images have been disseminated through the publication of Beckett’s Director’s Notebooks, and also by photographs of ‘authorized productions’ including Beckett’s own 1975 Schiller Theater Godot, which toured to the Abbey in 1977, and Walter Asmus’s revision of that mise en scène for the Dublin Gate Theatre’s Godot. Indeed, as mentioned above, the Gate Theatre’s production with its designs by Louis le Brocquy which sensitively captured Beckett’s ‘landscape of the mind’ in Godot, has undoubtedly promoted a particular ‘authorized’ iconography of the play. Documenting those authorial or authorized productions is vital to an understanding of Beckett’s dramaturgy and work as a theatre artist. However, when I look at the images of the ITC production, a different Godot is called up: one very attentive to the play’s references to bones and ash, and, although its whitened landscape reveals few specific features, the scenographic strategy of wrapping the set used for the Synge and Yeats plays allows those ghosts to shadow the production in a resonant encounter between past and present, and between Irish and international theatrical and visual cultures.

Conclusion: Future Godots Waiting for Godot continues to be designed and performed in Ireland: for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2013, Gare St Lazare Players presented a visually stunning set which featured a circular playing area mirroring

Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains


the circumference and surface of the large moon, and an overhanging tree suspended from above. In terms of innovative Irish scenographic interpretations of Beckett’s work, recent adaptations of Beckett’s radio work by Pan Pan Theatre Company and the site-specific productions of Beckett’s later drama and performances of his prose work by Sarah Jane Scaife’s Company SJ, are important interventions. This essay has offered only a very few glimpses into how Beckett’s theatrical landscape in Godot has been realized on Irish stages. A study of any of the other plays would reveal other histories of Irish scenography’s encounters with Beckett. The discovery of a history of scenic realizations of Beckett’s plays in Ireland, whether created by designers, directors or members of the company, uncovers a complex set of scenographic genealogies and legacies, and a series of scenic dialogues with other dramatic texts and traditions, that contributes to the living tapestry of Irish performance practices.


‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish Feargal Whelan

Beckett, Ireland and the Irish language The aim of this chapter is to examine performances of Samuel Beckett’s works in a language he frequently professed not to comprehend but to which he was connected throughout his life. As he only ever carried an Irish passport, his introduction to any country outside of Ireland was mediated through the Irish language. Yet, like so many of his compatriots, he remained isolated from the tongue which theoretically defined the nation’s culture in the twentieth century. This chapter argues that the theatre, when staging works translated from English to Irish, is a uniquely conflicted space. An Irish-speaker will usually understand English and would therefore understand the original. In effect the audience and practitioners are making a cultural and political statement borne directly out of the history of the decline and renewal of the language by the mere act of entering the Irish theatrical space. By reason of his own relationship to Irish, inflected by his upbringing, the translation of a Beckett play raises even more complex questions. Apart from providing a description of significant Irish productions, an attempt will be made to demonstrate how they interact with their setting within the history of the development of Irish language discourse over the latter part of the twentieth century up to the present. It will also be essential to assess the relationship between Beckett and Ireland, and what can be deduced of his relationship to the language itself. There is an inevitability when examining Beckett’s work in any Irish context that the question of the writer’s ‘Irishness’ is raised. The


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

role of the ‘Irish’ Beckett has been argued over since it was first drawn attention to by Vivian Mercier and encapsulated in his monograph Beckett/Beckett (1977). At one extreme of the debate are those who deny any significance to Beckett’s Irishness other than its locus as his birthplace. These, mostly French critics, are described by Pascale Casanova as comprising a cohort with Maurice Blanchot at their head, who needed to ‘“fabricate” a tailor-made Beckett […] Lacking a history, a past, an inheritance or a project’ in order to fulfil a need for a figure worthy of a “pure” criticism’ (2006: 11). At the other extreme is the adoption of Beckett in the popular mind as another genius in the Irish literary pantheon, resulting in the inevitable naming of Irish artefacts such as a theatre, a bridge and even a naval warship in his honour. In truth, such examples of critical extremes are rare, yet the need to engage with the complicated relationship Beckett had with the country of his birth is unavoidable when his drama is being assessed in the context of its performance there. The most recent and comprehensive collection which addresses the issue, Beckett and Ireland (2010), chooses not to resolve the counterbalancing pulls of Irishness and internationalism in the works. Rather, it is the endurance of both through resistance against the other which is accentuated as a recurrent mode. As Seán Kennedy puts it in his introduction: ‘[while] it seems clear that future accounts of Beckett’s aesthetic development must come to terms with the enduring impact of his early filiations with Ireland. The same accounts will have to allow […] for the ways in which those filiations were resented and resisted’ (2010a: 1). The central tension at the heart of Beckett’s relationship to Ireland is profoundly complicated when it comes to any assessment of the translation of his work into the Irish language. Beckett’s attitude to Irish seems to mirror that of the Irish population in general by demonstrating ignorance and affection towards it in equal measure. He declared in correspondence in 1954 that ‘If there is one [language] that is really foreign to me, it is Gaelic’ (Beckett 2011b: 464) in response to a correspondent who presumed Beckett could speak Irish. In a letter to Thomas MacGreevy in 1956 he wrote: ‘I hear from Cyril Cusack that

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


Liam O’Brien [sic] is translating Godot into Irish. Feel unexpectedly pleased about this’ (ibid., 624). This suggests an amused curiosity in relation to the language but it could not be construed as either a positive attitude or a studied indifference. In the end it is incomprehension which Beckett’s characters express, as when Molloy declares that: ‘Tears and laughter, they are so much Gaelic to me’ (Beckett 2009 [1955]: 35). The contradiction of attitudes in Beckett himself mirrors the central and unresolved issue of identity which has dominated Irish cultural history since political independence in 1922. Although Irish remains the ‘first official’ language of the state, only 40 per cent of the population claim to be able to speak it and only 1.8 per cent speak it daily (Census 2011). The conflicted nature of the Irish people’s attitude to Irish and its intertwining with culture and politics is summed up most clearly by Seamus Heaney in his memory of his attitude as a young man: I tended to conceive of Irish and English as adversarial tongues, as either/or rather than both/and, and this was an attitude that for a long time hampered the development of a more confident and creative way of dealing with the whole vexed question – the question that is of the relationship between nationality, language, history and literary tradition in Ireland. (1999: xxiv)

The status of Irish in the early twentieth century reflects the attempts to undo a history of decline and suppression which it had endured over the preceding four hundred years. From the earliest points in Irish colonial history, the emphasis fell on English as the more financially and culturally advantageous tongue, to the point when, by the 1690s, Irish was ‘regarded as a significant indicator of socio-economic identity, defined by its dissociation from modernity’, as Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost has demonstrated (2005: 84). The most devastating attack on the language occurred around the time of the Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century when the Irish-speaking population fell from 3.5 million in 1800 to 1.52 million in 1851 (Ó Tuathaigh 2008: 43). By 1891, for the whole of Ireland, the percentage of Irish-speakers in the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

under-ten group had declined to 3.5 per cent (ibid., 43). Yet by then, a movement to preserve and develop the language emerged to play a central part in the cultural Revival movement which would ultimately lead to national independence. Irish was declared ‘the national language and as such is the first official language’ of the state at its foundation in 1922 (quoted in Mac Giolla Chríost 2005: 120). From that point on, government policy was designed to preserve the language where it was already spoken, mostly in parts of the west of Ireland, which would be called Gaeltachtaí. Knowledge of the language throughout the rest of the country would be developed through compulsory teaching in all primary and secondary schools, and its usage would be sustained by making its understanding compulsory in all branches of the civil service. By the 1950s an admission of failure in the method of this project can be inferred when the government redrew the maps of the Irish-speaking areas and attempted to make the language more easily learned through standardization across conflicting dialects (ibid., 123). It might be argued that only at this moment can a popular rejuvenation of interest in the language and the culture, albeit in a limited fashion, begin to be noticeable. Beckett’s earliest portrayal of Irish reflects the disparaging tone commonly expressed by his class. In ‘Draff ’, the final story in More Pricks Than Kicks (1934), Hairy Quin dismisses ‘Gaelic’ as ‘a spalpeen’s babble’ because, he claims, ‘they have no words for the big ideas’ (Beckett 2010 [1934]: 177).1 This sense of the portrayal of a Gaelic Ireland as an inadequate entity reflects an impulsive expression of what Kennedy describes as ‘an exacerbated sense of alienation in the Irish Free State’ (2010b: 101) that afflicted the Protestant well-to-do families in the aftermath of national independence. Quin, like the central figure of the stories, Belacqua Shuah, and Beckett himself, is a young scion of one of these families and represents resistance to the imposition of a ‘foreign’ Irish language through his rejection of its inferiority, and by his adherence to the English language which he sees, by implication, as superior. However, when Beckett depicts the same community in the later radio play All That Fall (1957) their resistance to Irish is replaced by melancholic affection in keeping with their own dissipation:

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


Mr Rooney  […] Do you know, Maddy, sometimes one would think you were struggling with a dead language. […] Mrs Rooney  Well, you know, it will be dead in time, just like our own poor dear Gaelic, there is that to be said. [Urgent baa.] (1986: 194)

Bilingual Godot The first proposal to translate a work of Beckett’s into Irish came in 1955, at the same time that the original plan for the Irish language had finally been accepted as a failure. The early state project was being replaced by initiatives outside of state control which led to the development of a vibrant cultural awakening to the possibilities of renewal. Organizations such as the self-sustaining commercial company Gael Linn promoted the use of Irish in popular culture such as newsreels, popular music and commercial radio shows. Building on the work of actors such as Siobhán McKenna and Cyril Cusack, Gael Linn also launched the theatre company An Damer, in Dublin in 1955 with a remit to produce drama in Irish to a high standard and develop an audience for Irish theatre in Dublin (Ní Chinnéide 2008: 10). This mirrored the resurgent local English-language theatrical environment at the time, as represented by the Pike Theatre among others. It is in this context that Cusack sought Beckett’s approval to produce a bilingual version of Waiting for Godot. Following an initial approach to Beckett, the author directed him to seek an agreement with Donald Albery, who held the British rights, but after Albery refused he decided to attempt a version in Irish, writing later: ‘I lost my temper and came out with: “Alright, then I’ll do it in Irish!”’ (quoted in Beckett 2011b: 533–4, n.2). He then decided on a bilingual version and requested permission directly from Beckett, who replied: ‘By all means do it in Gaelic in Dublin if you think it worth while. Why parts in English? In any case you have my permission’ (Beckett 2011b: 533).


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Although Cusack ultimately failed to convince the Abbey Theatre to back his production, he sketched out his ideas for the play. He wrote that his idea was to set the scene ‘in bleakest Connemara’ with Vladimir and Estragon appearing as bilingual, speaking Irish between themselves and English with Pozzo and Lucky, ‘as is the familiar pattern in Gaeltacht areas’ (ibid., 533–4, n.2). In the translation undertaken by Professor Liam Ó Briain, the pair speak vernacular west of Ireland Irish and would be understood as being native to a setting of ‘bleakest Connemara’. By his deliberate setting of the production in Ireland and his choice of what languages the individuals speak it is impossible to imagine the play being read as anything other than a commentary on British colonialism. Didi and Gogo’s interactions with Pozzo would necessarily be understood in the context of the relationship between an English-speaking landowner and two dispossessed natives. Further, the overt cruelty of the English-speaking, landowning Pozzo to his unintelligible slave, Lucky, would be readily accepted, given the historical and cultural context, as expected behaviour from the recognizable bully over the uncomprehending, starving and indentured servant. Whether intended or not, the undeniable result of Cusack’s vision would have provided an intensely political reading of the play, and a very locally political one at that. The effect of the bilingual Godot would necessarily give a greater power to the figures of Didi and Gogo by giving them agency in the differing linguistic environments of each separate language, while limiting Pozzo to agency in his own alone. This precise effect can be seen in Ilan Ronen’s bilingual version of the play in Haifa, Israel, in 1984, in Arabic and in Hebrew. Ronen used the mixing of languages as the basis of a political reading of the play, deciding to ‘transform Beckett’s two tramps into two Palestinian labourers’, arguing that portraying the pair ‘in the Israeli political reality of the period […] would only deepen the audience’s identification with the characters’ (1997: 240). Fittingly perhaps, the first actual production of a Beckett play in Irish was one in which no words were spoken. Dónal Farmer directed and played in Gníomh Gan Focail (Acte sans paroles) at Halla an Damer

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


Theatre on 16 December 1968. As a mime, the play contained no words in Irish, apart from the carafe of water which appears and in this case bore the legend ‘UISCE’ (meaning ‘water’). The first major production of a Beckett play in Irish came to Galway in 1971, and was produced at An Taibhdhearc, the National Irish Language theatre of Ireland. An Taibhdhearc was founded in 1928 with finance from the recently independent Free State at the suggestion of Liam Ó Briain, who was Professor of Romance Languages in University College Galway. The theatre can be seen as an intrinsic part of the government’s Irishlanguage development policy. However, it should not be inferred that by reason of its location and the source of its funding the theatre was either provincial or conservative. Its first artistic director was Micheál Mac Liammóir, who co-founded The Gate Theatre in Dublin that same year and continued to work in both venues for the next four years. From its beginning An Taibhdhearc presented new plays written in Irish and translations of Irish and international works. Within its first ten years the company had produced translations of Martínez Sierra, Molière, Henri Gheon and Eugene O’Neill as well as of Irish writers such as Synge, Lady Gregory and Lennox Robinson. Popular English and American plays were also undertaken, as can be seen from the inclusion of Emlyn Williams’s Night Must Fall (1935), Kaufmann and Hart’s The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939) and Mary Chase’s Harvey (1944), among others (Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe Collection).2 As part of its policy of requesting outside directors to produce plays for the company from 1969 onwards, the Dublin-based Alan Simpson, who had directed the first Dublin production of Waiting for Godot in 1955, was invited to direct his play of choice in 1971. Although not an Irish-speaker, Simpson chose to direct a translation of Waiting for Godot. The script which was used is attributed to Liam Ó Briain and Seán Ó Carra. According to Tom Kenny, who played Estragon, Ó Briain had been commissioned to translate the parts of Vladimir and Estragon ‘in the 1950s’ and Ó Carra completed the translation in 1970. It is almost certain that the Ó Briain portion of the script is the same as that which Cyril Cusack requested for his earlier version in 1955. The


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

play opened on 28 November 1971 to a successful run in Galway and later played two nights on the Peacock Stage at the Abbey, opening on 26 January 1972. In between these dates, a brief tour of the Gaeltacht areas of Galway was undertaken with single-night presentations in Tourmakeady, Oranmore, Headford and other villages in Connemara, according to Kenny. A curious aside is that its final dress rehearsal was played to a full house of priests and nuns the night before the official opening, as was the norm in all of the Galway theatre’s productions, as the Bishop forbade members of the clergy to attend the commercial theatre.3 In contrast to Cusack’s localized and specific vision of the play, the Taibhdhearc production made no effort to transfer place names to a recognizable setting. The references to ‘the Eiffel Tower’ and ‘ten francs’ are untranslated, in common with Beckett’s own English version; however the Act II exchange between Didi and Gogo about their time working in the vineyard is more specific in Ó Briain’s version. The original French version, from which Ó Briain worked, has the pair working ‘dans le Vaucluse […] chez un nommé Bonnelly, á Roussillon’ (Beckett 1966 [1952]: 53) and the Irish situates them ‘i ndeisceart na Fraince (South of France) […] i bhfeilm duine darb ainm Bonnelly (at a farm owned by a man called Bonnelly)’ (Beckett 1971: 59). Beckett’s English version is more vague as it situates the recollection ‘in the Macon country […] can’t think of the name of the man, at a place called … [Snaps his fingers] … can’t think of the name of the place’ (Beckett 1986: 57). As Lucky’s speech was translated by Ó Carra from the English it follows the changes which Beckett made in translation, such as the trio of place names ‘Peckham Fulham Clapham’ (ibid., 43 and Beckett 1971: 42). While it is apparent that no specific place is intended as a locus of the play, the regionalized nature of Irish which is spoken necessarily locates it in the west of Ireland. Ó Briain translated the piece into the vernacular of the Galway Gaeltacht and all of the cast were from the area. Kenny further suggests that Simpson asked the actors to insert their own substitutes for those lines which were not rhythmically

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


suitable and this was done in a very few, unspecified places. In this context, the sudden appearance of a specific local reference in Lucky’s speech: An cloigeann an cloigeann i gConamara (the skull the skull in Connemara) (ibid., 43) offered a particularly resonant crescendo. Kenny relates that the effect on the audience, particularly during the short tour of Connemara, was such that it drew ‘a gasp’ of shock in the midst of the laughter which had preceded it.4 A contemporary review suggested that Beckett’s language was particularly suited to translation into Irish because of its musicality: ‘B’fhiú go mór Godot a aistriú go Gaeilge mar feileann sé di ó thaobh rithme agus teangan’ (It was well worthwhile translating Godot into Irish as it suits it perfectly in terms of rhythm and language) (‘Ag Fanacht Le Godot sa Phéacóg’). Simpson emphasized what he understood as Beckett’s requirement of strongly attending to rhythm and musicality, according to Kenny, and the results may have even pleased Beckett himself. Kenny sent the author a tape of the play which had been recorded in Galway. Although he only acknowledged his gratitude at receiving the tape, the publisher John Calder later asserted to Kenny that Beckett ‘frequently played it and praised how it sounded’.5

A Northern accent The environment in which Godó was produced in Dublin and Galway in the early 1970s is almost incomparable to the corresponding environment in which a translation of Endgame was staged in Belfast at the turn of the twenty-first century. The staging of any Beckett play in Irish in Belfast exerts a more layered pressure on its reading and its reception. The poet and academic Ciarán Carson describes the psychologically restrictive landscape of the west Belfast of his own youth, outlining the alienation of individuals through their allegiance and language: The Falls Road and its wee streets were the known world; beyond that lay monsters. I think maybe even the language was different: a Shankill


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

language, a Falls language. Then here I was, speaking Irish, something totally foreign, really. An island within an island. The home circle. (Brown 2002: 142)

Carson was describing his environment growing up in the 1950s, yet it is clear that the political history of Belfast in the intervening sixty years has not changed the cultural and linguistic landscape greatly. The removal of the Protestant majority government at the beginning of the 1970s following its inability to address civil rights issues exposed by mainly nationalist agitation was followed by the sectarianization and militarization of the society during the time known as ‘the troubles’, culminating in the accord known as ‘The Peace Agreement’ which took effect in December 1999, and formed the basis of the current method of electing the unique power-sharing government. As part of this agreement ‘parity of esteem […] for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities’ was to be recognized as a core principal (The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, 3). As a result, what has been described as ‘a limited revival [of the Irish Language] during the last quarter of the twentieth century’ has been achieved in an atmosphere of raised cultural awareness inflected by the background of a politicized cultural struggle (Mac Giolla Chríost 2005: 170). In the heart of the area described by Carson is Aisling Ghéar, a professional Irish Language theatre company which has been based in the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich arts centre on the Falls Road since 1997. It has produced new plays and translations of Irish plays from various authors such as Yeats, Synge, Friel and Tom Murphy. It has also presented translations of European authors such as Ionesco, Dario Fo and Willy Russell. Gearóid Ó Cairealláin translated Happy Days as Tráth dár Saol for the community theatre group Aisteoirí Aon Dráma in October 1996, and followed this by translating Endgame (1957) as Críoch-Chluiche which opened at the company’s theatre on 10 September 2003. Despite the environment, there was no attempt to provide a particular political or historical reading which might have been suggested by the core issues of confinement, imprisonment and oppression/resistance raised in both plays. They were chosen because

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


Ó Cairealláin liked them, even though the company’s Artistic Director, Bríd Ó Gallachóir observes that it is usually more difficult to sell Beckett’s work to their regular audience.6 Ó Cairealláin refutes the idea of a specific setting being intended by his translations, emphasizing that the barest, grey set design was chosen precisely because it did not offer the audience a recognizable space. Yet his version of Endgame immediately evokes Ulster in its choice of Irish vernacular and in its transposition of specific place names. The form of Irish used in the translation is the one which is readily understood by the local audience. The Ulster dialect in which it is written is used in the Donegal Gaeltacht and in Belfast itself. The differences are marked, not only in relation to grammatical and vocabulary variations, but most obviously in its inflection and its sound. Ó Cairealláin says that he made no attempt to offer a specific, recognizable location for his production, arguing that the place names mentioned in Endgame were changed without any particular significance, except that they all refer to specific Ulster sites. Nell and Nagg’s description of crashing their tandem is transposed so that ‘It was in the Ardennes […] On the road to Sedan’ (Beckett 1986: 100) becomes ‘tharla sé i dTír Conaill […] Ag tarraingt ar Mhucais’. Tír Conaill is the original name of the county known as Donegal, in north-west Ulster and Mucais is a mountain known in English as Muckish. When Nell later recalls ‘rowing on Lake Como’ (ibid., 102) this is translated as ‘Loch nEathach’ referring to Lough Neagh, the enormous lake in the heart of Ulster. The town of ‘Kov’ about which Hamm inquires in his narrative (ibid., 117) is given as Baile na Leice, a small town in County Fermanagh known in English as Bellanaleck. The production is regarded as an artistic success because of its central performances rather than through any political commentary which it drew from the text. Despite his assertion, Ó Cairealláin’s relocation of the few outside place names in Beckett’s original serves to provide at least an understandable landscape for a local audience. A realistic setting may not be established on stage but is suggested for the landscape offstage. The effect, from the script, is to emphasize


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the division between both spaces and draw attention to the alienation of one from the other. It would be facile to read the translation as a commentary on the alienating effect of the precisely delineated spaces in contemporary Belfast, yet it is hard to avoid. The sense of confinement experienced by Hamm in his chair, Clov in his kitchen, and both within the room, while removed from an outside which will never be reached and will never encroach without, begins to resemble no less than Carson’s condition as a young Irish-speaking boy in West Belfast.

Irish abroad Since 1999, a cross-border body called Foras na Gaeilge administers all aspects of language promotion in the context of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Ironically, as a result of now being officially viewed as a minority interest as opposed to the aspirational first language, major investment has been made in a dedicated national television station, TG4 in 1996, and there has been an increase in children attending schools teaching through the medium of Irish alone. In 2003, The Official Languages Act was introduced to guarantee that ‘the provision of services in general through Irish by the state system [be placed on] a statutory footing’ and ‘create a space for the language in public affairs in Ireland’ (An Comisinéir Teanga 2008). Diarmaid Ferriter points out that this success was achieved as ‘Irish speakers were now ironically, if with a degree of success, making their case on the basis of minority rights (Ferriter 2004: 73–4). Another consequence of this readjustment of the attitudes of, and to, Irish-speakers was an engagement with its own diaspora abroad and its dialogue with an enlarged immigrant population. Ciarán Mac Murchaidh points to this ‘internationalizing’ trend by observing that while the age-old discussion of the language question is debated in Ireland ‘others go quietly about the business of beginning to learn Irish, improving their intermediate knowledge of it or perfecting their

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


use of it not only in Ireland but across the world’ (Mac Murchaidh 2008: 220). In this more outward-looking Irish-language context, the theatre company Mouth on Fire was founded in Dublin in 2010. It focuses primarily on producing Beckett’s works in both Irish and English but it also has included plays and dramatizations of works by Shaw, Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh and Seamus Heaney, as well as a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To date it has premiered five Beckett plays in translation: Teacht is Imeacht (Come and Go) 10 April 2012; Rocabaí (Rockaby) 8 September 2012; Blogh (Rough for Theatre I) 26 October 2012; Matalang (Catastrophe) 6 December 2013; and Téip Dheireanach Krapp (Krapp’s Last Tape) 10 June 2014. All translations have been made by poet and translator Gabriel Rosenstock, who has a particular interest in haiku. He is most attracted to the language of the Beckett texts and what he terms ‘the unspoken gaps’ which are manifest through the silences and pauses in the shorter plays.7 He has also collaborated with the company in providing Irish translations of some of Beckett’s poetry. As with Aisling Ghéar’s production, Rosenstock was acutely aware that the vague references to place which are present in varying degrees in all of the works needed to be addressed in translation. Like Ó Cairealláin, he decided not to attempt to translate places or even to heighten any resonances which might appear. He admits he briefly considered changing ‘Miss Wade’s’ nursery school and the names of Pru, Vi and Flo in Come and Go but quickly rejected the idea. One interesting translation, however, comes in the line from Krapp’s Last Tape: ‘Be again on Croghan’ (Beckett 1986: 223) which is translated as ‘Bheith ar Chruachan arís’ at the end of Krapp’s reminiscence. Croghan is an Irish place name, referring to Croghan Mountain in County Wicklow. ‘Croghan’ is an English transcription of the Irish word ‘Cruachan’ and its translation here becomes an act of restoration of meaning as much as it does a point of recognition for an Irish audience. This has a greater effect than in the English, I suggest, as it raises an unexpected sense of familiarity in the Irish-speaking audience, much in the same way that


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

the incongruous invocation of Connemara produced a similar effect in the west of Ireland forty years earlier. Conscious of the need to appeal to as wide an audience as possible Mouth on Fire usually present a combination of Irish and English plays on the same bill. Company co-founder, Cathal Quinn believes that it would be almost impossible to attract an audience to a programme of plays entirely in Irish, as he feared such a public ‘is just not there’.8 The lack of a readymade audience may not always have been the case, as the success of the Damer suggests. Anecdotally, the enthusiasm of those involved in the Irish language movement dictated that they felt obliged to support drama in Irish whether or not they were interested in the works presented per se. Aisling Ghéar’s Bríd Ó Gallachóir suggested that there seems to have been a belief in attending drama in Irish primarily to show support ‘ar son na cúise (for the sake of the cause)’ rather than to engage with it as entertainment or cultural experience. However, Aisling Ghéar’s experience is that this phenomenon has now disappeared and Irish-speakers’ unquestioned support can no longer be assumed.9 Now, it seems, the Irish-speaking audience mirrors the commitment to theatre, or lack of it, in the wider general public. Ironically, the most enthusiastic receptions to the plays have followed their performances outside of Ireland, according to Quinn. They premiered Rocabaí to an academic audience at the Beckett Working Group in Southampton in September 2012. Since then they have played festivals in both Russia and Japan. According to Quinn and co-founder Melissa Nolan, Japanese audiences are more interested in the Irish versions of the plays, expressing disappointment when only the English version was offered, and have also queried the need for playing the English versions on the same programme. In effect, the experience of Mouth on Fire describes a parallel of audience experience in Japan, Russia and modern Ireland, albeit with a nuanced distinction. In all cases, the majority of the audience members cannot understand the language in which the play is being performed. Outside of Ireland it is the very newness and strangeness of a performance in Irish which attracts the audience. Within Ireland, the engagement

‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish


with the cultural imprint of the language seems more complicated, with audiences negotiating past and current resonances of the nation’s cultural narrative when confronted with Irish translation. Beckett played in Irish now appears as exotic or ‘other’ to a foreign audience in contrast to Irish Beckett performances which were heretofore more concerned with portraying the plays to an Irish audience as something less strange and possibly even more local. Certainly, Mouth on Fire cannot be viewed as forming a part of a project solely concerned with the promotion of Irish within Ireland, as might have been the case in the 1930s or 1940s, and neither can their productions be regarded in the context of the more enlightened ‘second wave’ of language renewal in the 1960s and 1970s. Rather their performances are much more emblematic of the contemporary experience of a language which appears more comfortable in a bilingual environment, visible in the programming of the television station TG4, in which performances in English are accepted alongside those in Irish without rancour. The abandonment of the initial ideal of achieving the supremacy of Irish within the State, to a position now in which its minority status within a bilingual environment, reflects the reception of Mouth on Fire’s work both within Ireland and internationally.

Conclusion There is an extra, if not unique, dimension to the translation of any of Beckett’s dramas into Irish, which cannot pertain to a translation into another language. Irish is the official language of Ireland, yet it is only regularly spoken by a small minority of its population, and is understood by an only marginally larger percentage. Even those who speak Irish as a mother tongue generally understand and speak English by reason of their exposure to it in school, through the media and in everyday life. So it is not the case that the works are translated in order to bring them to an otherwise uncomprehending audience. Performed


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

in Irish, the plays are immersed in a linguistically politicized arena, given the inextricable connecting of the language to the history of Irish independence from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. In many ways therefore, the Irish versions of Beckett’s work reflect the complexity of the Irish people’s own engagement with their own language as much as they do an engagement with modernist drama. The productions of Beckett in translation which have been examined span sixty years and cover a period of profound change in the course of the Irish language in Ireland. The coincidence of Cyril Cusack’s first attempts to translate Waiting for Godot in the 1950s came at the moment of renaissance of Irish language culture following the failure of the first initiative of the development of the language after the establishment of the Free State in 1922. An Taibhdhearc’s Ag Fanacht le Godot demonstrates the energized and confident language movement of the early 1970s while Aisling Ghéar’s Críoch-Chluiche describes the singular nature of cultural politics at the crucial point of The Belfast Peace Agreement at the turn of the twenty-first century. In Mouth on Fire’s translations, the renewing of the language through its engagement with the rest of the world is reflected in its international reception and in the changing status of the language at home. As an exile in France, Beckett’s own engagement with Irish may not have extended far beyond his passport, yet the language’s engagement with his plays reflects the changing narrative of its own development.


The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot1 Trish McTighe

A Western Waiting for Godot This essay is concerned with the place that Druid Theatre Company’s 1987 production of Waiting for Godot holds within the performance history of Beckett’s drama in Ireland. It will suggest that critical responses to the production reveal a then broader national and popular understanding of Beckett’s work (and life) as dislocated from the specificity of Irish concerns. Responses to the production were concerned with the ways place was evoked in this performance, specifically through the accents of the actors. On the one hand, this indicated both the aesthetic trajectory that the theatre company was taking at that time and the company members’ commitment to their west of Ireland identity. On the other, it suggested a degree of discursive blindness to the complexities of place in Godot and in Beckett’s work in general. As noted by certain reviewers, rather than maintaining its location somewhere in the void, aspects of Druid’s production seem to have located the play in quite problematic ways. Place has been strongly evoked in Irish literature in general and in Irish theatre specifically both before and after independence as vital to the narrative of nationhood, with the west of Ireland, as Catherine Nash puts it, ‘embodying the nation’ (1993: 91). Dramaturgical and scenographic practices have also evoked place in very specific ways, as in Synge’s cottage interiors, O’Casey’s urban spaces or Yeats’s abstracted western landscapes. The Irish stage has been a mutable site reflecting


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

and refracting place and landscape to produce the identificatory moments out of which a nascent state came to know itself ‘through narration and memory, beyond the boundaries of the conceived space of planner, cartographers and administrators’ (Morash and Richards 2013: 102). Yet Beckett’s work does not fit easily within the canon of Irish literature in terms of such aesthetic and politically charged evocations of place. Within Beckett’s work, place operates as a tense, febrile slippage between identifiable signifiers and dislocated spaces, between memory and imagination, and between embodied presences and their virtualized or ghostly traces. In Beckett’s literary and dramatic oeuvre, Ireland has tended to be, as Peter Boxall puts it, conveyed through a ‘poetics of the back’ (2011: 29), where references to Ireland take place in a sort of literary ‘back room, stowed somewhere beneath a surface which tends toward placelessness and geographical anonymity’ (ibid., 24). Consequently, Irish theatre companies have approached Beckett’s work in a multitude of ways, variously exploiting the full spectrum of places and spaces, from specificity to abstraction, while often articulating cultural anxieties regarding the relationship between the author and his country of birth and between his work and the canon of Ireland’s literature. For example, it is well documented (Simpson 1962, Morash 2002) that the earliest Irish imagining of Godot, by the Pike Theatre, saw no dissonance between the language of Godot and that of the streets of Dublin and staged the play accordingly, using strong Dublin accents and colloquial jargon.2 Later approaches to the production and reception of the work, and which this essay will address, saw in Beckett’s drama a dislocated and therefore universal geography, a nowhere that could stand for everywhere. Micheál O hAodha’s programme note for the 1969 production of Godot at The Abbey Theatre is a case in point. He writes that ‘Beckett is the first dramatist of the space-age. In his plays, set on the edge of nowhere, society does not exist and man is in a void. This dramatic astronaut views life on earth with a wry sadness through vistas of space’ (O hAodha 1969). With an extract from Alec Reid’s All I Could Manage, More than I Could (1968), the programme note for the 1982

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


Irish Theatre Company’s touring production of Godot highlighted the play’s abstraction.3 We get out of the play, Reid suggests, what we put into it, his text establishing and emphasizing its universality. In keeping with Martin Esslin’s well-known characterization (see Esslin 1980), Reid seems to suggest that it can be enjoyed by everyone from philosophers to inmates, describing Beckett’s work as a ‘new drama of the non-specific’ (Reid 1968: 34). This essay will make the case that Druid’s 1987 production of Godot was understood through a popularized narrative of dislocation that characterized the Irish reception of Beckett’s work at the time. When Druid presented what was to be their last Beckett work in 1987, they did so within an era – pre-Celtic Tiger – before the country had begun to take stock of its literary assets. Ireland had only just begun to call Beckett’s work home from its European haunts to re-inhabit the places that are only ghostly echoes in his writing. The nation had yet to see the cultural and public celebration of the author which was to feature in the 1991 Gate Theatre Beckett Festival and the 2006 centenary celebrations. Druid’s Godot, while it is one particular example in an ongoing drama of place within the work and the cultural discourses which surround it, was not to be part of the later narrative of cultural celebration of Beckett’s work in Ireland. Yet the production’s vocal evocations of place are deserving of critical attention, revealing, as I explore below, certain Irish assumptions about Beckett’s work.

Druid’s Godot: Abstract images, marked voices Closely associated over its lifetime with the drama of Synge and Tom Murphy, Druid Theatre Company produced four of Beckett’s plays in the first ten years of its existence. As a fledgling company they produced Act Without Words I in 1975 and Happy Days in 1976. Endgame (1981) and Godot (1987) were staged at the time the company was beginning to find its voice. These Beckett plays were enacted amid a wide array of plays, some from what might be termed the European avant-garde;


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Fernando Arrabal’s Orison, for instance, was double-billed with Act Without Words I. It is clear that this period in the company’s history was something of a testing ground. As Jerome Hynes recounts, by the end of the 1970s, Druid was contributing to the reinvigoration of the Galway theatre scene. These years saw productions of plays by Shaw, Gregory, Wilde, Stoppard, the Galway playwright Geraldine Aron as well as their own original work.4 The company won the coveted Scotsman Fringe First award at Edinburgh confirming, as Shelley Troupe puts it, that it was possible to create a national reputation through international success from a base outside of Dublin – a first in Ireland. Not that Druid sought an international profile alone. Far from it, as their commitment to local and rural culture was maintained from the outset. They toured M. J. Molloy’s Wood of the Whispering in rural areas before playing at the 1983 Dublin Theatre Festival, so that, as Troupe notes, audiences in small towns saw the play before Dublin audiences. This served to consolidate rather than impede the growth of their reputation as a truly national company (Troupe, forthcoming 2016). Hynes recently described their mission: ‘Originally the company was founded on the notion that the people of Galway, and indeed people all over the country, deserved to see professional theatre within their own communities, and within their own community context’ (2012: 93). The company’s connection to place is evident in its rural touring,5 something Druid has been doing since the 1980s and repeated recently (in 2005) on Inis Meáin, the middle island of the Aran trio: the final act of Synge’s Deirdre of the Sorrows was played outdoors in a rainstorm and Hynes recalls it as ‘one of the single most extraordinary forty-five minutes in Druid’s history’ during which she ‘was sure that John Millington Synge was haunting the stones’ (ibid., 95). This sense of place and community, combined with the company’s early international touring – their first American performances were in 1986, and in Australia a year later – leads Troupe to conclude that from those early days ‘Druid […] was without question as much an international as a regional or a national theatre company’ (Troupe, forthcoming 2016). By 2006, Druid was giving American audiences ‘a

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


Synge we didn’t really know’ (Berlin 2007: 90) in ‘a landmark accomplishment in theatre history’ (ibid., 102). In relation to Beckett in the early days of the company, Hynes remarks that: Bluntly, […] one of the reasons we did Beckett early on was that we were trying to attract an audience and one of the ways we were doing that was through lunchtime theatre. These short pieces of Beckett fitted absolutely into that context. You can just see from the eclecticism of the repertoire of the early years that we were stabbing around in the dark, trying to find our feet, trying to find our voice. And obviously one of the places to look was to Beckett. I would say that, in that context, Beckett has been […] hugely influential in terms of the inner life of the work we do. But I would say that my ability to actually directly do his work has not been as happy.6

For all that Hynes admits a lack of ease with Beckett and admits to struggling with Godot,7 this production was on the whole well received by critics, albeit with certain caveats. Some of the appeal of the production might be ascribed to the presence of Mick Lally as Pozzo, whom reviewer Michael Sheridan saw as a ‘triumph’ (1987a). Lally had achieved nationwide fame by that time in the role of Miley on Glenroe, Ireland’s longest running and, at that time, only televised soap opera. Yet despite its popular success, some (though by no means all) of the critical responses saw the production as too heavily marked by its west of Ireland location. In spite of the fact that, as I discuss in greater detail below, there is little evidence of a dramaturgical decision to generate geographical specificity, many of the reviewers find an intrusive evocation of place in the production. As Sheridan puts it: ‘In tackling this monumental work, Garry Hynes treats the original script with respect while exploring some new vocal ranges. Thus Vladimir and his eternal sidekick, Estragon, have clearly wandered not far from the Claddagh, if the accents are to be accepted as an indication of place’ (1987a). He goes on to suggest that this makes the play more accessible, with the strangeness of its lack of narrative lessened by this element of the familiar. Indeed, as the play


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

progresses it becomes clear to the reviewer that time and space are of no consequence to the protagonists. Although praising the production overall, another reviewer complains of the overuse of the Galway idiom (as she puts it) ‘rather than […] the tones of Beckett’s Everyman’ (Hingerty 1987). Place is expressed here in vocal terms; recognition of such emerges not so much from the image on the stage or the dramaturgical choices exactly, as from the insistent, piercing recognizability of voice. As Tim Harding puts it, Vladimir and Estragon were clearly ‘men of the west’, and the production displayed certain naturalistic elements in this regard (1987). While this production aimed at a more abstract and universal sense of the play, this vision was apparently somewhat limited by the accents of its actors. Literalizing the terms of Boxall’s back room metaphor, the voice here brings place front and centre in ways that may be in keeping with the author’s subterranean Irishness. Foregrounded in this way, voice seems to interfere with Beckettian abstraction and, in these reviewers’ estimation, the universality of the play was foreclosed by its aural reception. In truth, there may have been problems with the production which were overlooked in the audiences’ excitement at seeing Glenroe meet Godot. Judging by the reviewers’ responses, Hynes’s comments in interview and directorial notes, as well as footage of the production,8 it would appear that what Druid was trying to accomplish involved a level of stylization which did not fit comfortably within the company’s performance ethos or training at that time. Hynes’s director’s script is not heavily annotated. The stage direction ‘silence’ is circled on most pages of the text, reflecting a concern for the musicality of the work, as is the word ‘motionless’. Hynes was clearly picking up on the music hallstyle ‘double-act’ motifs in the play. She describes the rehearsal process not as a search for meaning through analysis but rather ‘through sound rhythm emotion’: to get a sense of its meaning, she notes, ‘you must play it’.9 Yet the production ultimately seemed to be stuck partway between stylization and realism, its flaws showing a cast not quite managing to move between vocal and gestural registers with the ease that is needed to reveal the play’s internal contradictions and tensions.

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


Desmond Rushe notes a discrepancy between a highly naturalistic Ray McBride (Estragon) and a more stylized Seán McGinley (Vladimir), which makes the latter look affected and stilted, leaving much of the comedy between the two unexploited (1987). This contradiction is also apparent in the contrast between the abstract backdrop and the marked voices of the actors. The small size and brightness of the abstract stage space, which Rushe suggests is ‘not conducive to creating the necessary mood because it does not evoke the desolate open space of the location’ (ibid.), gives the impression of a two-dimensional curtain sketch. It was brightly lit, the backdrop a somewhat colourful mixture of browns, creams and ochres with a delicate branch forming the tree. The actors have very little space to move about in and the colours of the set seem to enhance this sense of two-dimensionality rather than diminish it. The set maintains a sense of abstraction however, envisioning nowhere even as the voices emplace the production in very emphatic ways. Yet these problems may ultimately have less to do with accent and place than with the company’s general discomfort with the style demanded by this play. While dramaturgical and formal choices by the director and the actors might explain the criticisms of the production’s voices, it is necessary to examine in further detail the assumptions that the reviewers’ comments reveal. Attention to the play’s ‘sonic geography’, the ways in which voice and place interact, alerts us, as David Matless argues, ‘to the contested values, the precarious balances […] which make up place’ (2005: 747). Voices not only mark the territory of the body and place, but also social stratification and divisions (Boland 2010: 17). Vocal quality, accent and certain rhythms of speech are produced by the culture of which they are a part, while also referencing its often complex geo-social territory. The void of Godot meets the material specificity of voice in Druid’s production. Beckett’s words become mediated through a west of Ireland habitus, if Bourdieu’s term can be extended to the voice: acquired and shared characteristics inscribed onto the vocal chords (2005: 45). That a marked, social body was apparent in Druid’s Godot is evident from Colm Tóibín’s review in which he remarks that ‘Ray McBride’s


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Estragon is a fellow standing at a street corner in a small Irish town with his hands in his pockets watching the world passing by. He has no memory and no imagination, but he is curious and easily irritated’ (1987). For it is important to note that while it is the act of placing the text which the reviewers seem to find intrusive, the specific place itself, the west of Ireland, may also be a factor here. To examine this further, it is necessary to place this production within the context of the wider popular discourse about Beckett at that time.

The ‘Irish Beckett’ of the 1970s and 1980s Reviewer John Boland, writing in the Irish Press (1970), notes that that year’s Irish Universities Dramatic Association Festival, offering Beckett rather than J. B. Keane, Pirandello rather than T. C. Murray, Shakespeare rather than Lennox Robinson, is ‘as it should be, for after all it is catering to a different audience than would a rural group – an urban audience, in large part a student audience. Beckett’s appeal, for example, is to the middle-class, university educated rather than to the rural farmer’. He goes on to point out that he means no slight to the farmer, only that ‘a different set of social and cultural conditions applies for each’. Keane’s is a form of realism which does not require an ‘affinity’ with literary devices and complex ideas. While this reviewer’s patronizing tone may represent a more extreme position on Irish culture, it is revelatory of both specific popular opinions about Beckett’s work and of an urban–rural divide in Ireland at that time. Indeed, the Beckettian ‘dislocation’ itself can be seen to have a certain flavour in Ireland, as the following examples will show. Reviews of productions of Beckett’s drama, Godot in particular, in the 1970s and 1980s, present an understanding of the play in all its humanistic lack of specificity as an enduring classic of ‘tangible symbolism and theatricality’ (Smith 1982) in which elements of music hall comedy and aesthetic and stylized precision come together. For instance, Rushe comments that the 1979 production of Godot by

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


Four-in-One Players fails to exploit fully either the ‘music hall comedy’ or ‘the contrasting attitudes of the tramps’ and does not attempt the type of ‘subtle orchestration’ that Beckett’s work demands, thus demonstrating a sense of the play as stylized and balletic (Rushe 1979b). There is some relief at the move away from austere stylization in Lindie Naughton’s review of a slightly later production at the Project Arts Centre (directed by Peter Sheridan). She praises its emphasis on the clownish and slapstick elements which leave in abeyance the ‘meaningful silences’ and ‘solemn reverence’ of earlier interpretations (Naughton 1979). Rushe has similar praise for this production, especially for Johnny Murphy’s Estragon whose Dublinese filled ‘the dialogue like a glove’ as the ‘sort of vaudeville tramp the author intended’ (1979a). The ways in which the play is spoken about circulate around its dislocated spaces, its music hall qualities but also, in Rushe’s commentary, the ease of connection to a staged Dublin accent, a sort of vocal ‘Dublinness’. Similarly, the discourses surrounding the few other professional productions of the play to ‘go west’ around this time seem to reside firmly in the abstract existentialist camp, as exemplified by the previously mentioned Irish Theatre Company production.10 If Druid’s 1981 production of Endgame induced no critiques of its vocal semiotics, it might be because several events occurring in the mid-1980s began to concretize a specifically regional association with Beckett. During that time, Barry McGovern furthered what might be termed an Irish vocalic tradition begun by the actor Jack MacGowran, with his highly successful stage production I’ll Go On, adapted from Beckett prose works Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable. Reviewers note the vocal textures that he exploits, from a specifically Dublin voice to more neutral and disembodied sounds (O’Toole 1986) revealing, as David Nowlan has it, that Beckett’s rhythms embody the ‘very pulse and mood of his native city’ (1986). One might conclude that there if there is a ‘Dublinness’ in the writing (this is clearly what Alan Simpson ‘heard’ in the 1950s and colloquialized accordingly), then there is also a tradition of performing the ‘Dublinness’ of the writing. Just as Pozzo fits easily into a performance


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

tradition of Victorian melodrama in Ireland containing the figure of the stage Englishman, as Vivian Mercier has suggested (1977: 53), Beckett’s figures make sense in Ireland as traversing Dublin’s social strata. Sometimes they are comically Catholic working class, sometimes Protestant middle class fallen on hard times, other times spectral, lacking identifying features of any kind. If McGovern joined this longstanding vocal tradition, Eoin O’Brien achieved the connection visually, with the publication of the photographic collection The Beckett Country (1986). This coffee-table publication parallels images of the Dublin area with corresponding references in Beckett’s early texts. While some may have seen this as an attempt to ‘recolonize’ the author,11 this book marks an important moment in the development of the Beckett–Ireland conversation, depicting Beckett’s connection with the urban and suburban topographies of Dublin and the landscapes of the Wicklow Mountains where the author was a frequent walker. Indeed, it was the minimal nature of an Irish presence, academic, dramatic or otherwise, at Beckett’s eightieth birthday festivities in Paris that prompted Michael Colgan, Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre in Dublin, to embark on a corrective project (Wolf 1991, Kennedy 2009: 68). This would manifest in 1991 as the highly successful Beckett Festival, which staged all nineteen of the plays (excepting the early Eleutheria for which no performance rights have been granted). Following this, a form of public cultural rehabilitation of the author took hold in Ireland; the 1990s also saw the publication of several important books which traced the Irish resonances in the texts.12 The implications for a newfound sense of place, a reconfiguration of the drama of place in Beckett’s writing became clear, prompting more radical reflections on what it means to invoke nationalist and identificatory terminology when dealing with the writing of one who was devoted to, as David Lloyd puts it, a ‘project of an anti-identitarian thinking’ (1993: 55). Indeed, Seán Kennedy suggests that the referential complexities of Beckett’s mature work demand that we dispense altogether with a notion of an ‘Irish Beckett’ (2010a: 8).

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


Yet in what place and in what time does that leave our west of Ireland Godot? If at the time of Druid’s production Beckett was perceived to be an author for the urban intelligentsia rather than for the rural playgoing masses, with the expectations for the voices to sound a note of ‘Dublinness’, then it was difficult to find a way for Beckett to speak to the rural world and its concerns. Druid, particularly through its connection with the playwright Tom Murphy, was dealing with some of the most pressing issues of the day: emigration and the continuing poverty affecting rural areas throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Even if traces of place could be unearthed within Beckett’s work, they were not traces of the west. If there was a growing sense of Beckett’s Irishness, it was to be based on, for obvious reasons, Dublin’s terrain and political milieu rather than on rural landscapes. These responses hint at more than a chasm between emergent critical responses to Beckett; they also express a cultural distance between the east and west of Ireland, exposing a heterogeneity unvoiced in nationalist narratives, and one of which Druid was all too aware. In the case of Druid’s Godot, it is a chasm unveiled by voice.

Druid’s drama of place It is worth reiterating that Garry Hynes did not view the play as having a specific location, but was rather attuned to its aesthetic form and structure, and it was only in reception that a slight discomfort with the intrusion of place became evident. Hynes’s choice was evident: have her west of Ireland actors neutralize their accents or perform as they are, risking the above responses. Hynes’s choice not to alter some of her actors’ accents follows an ethic which the company has adhered to since its inception, to live in and stage the west of Ireland. No accent change, therefore, is a dramaturgical decision in itself. It is, however, in the nature of voice to be performative and given over to mimesis and malleability; this is evident from the text of Godot itself. Estragon, for example, ‘beseeches’ Pozzo to reseat himself: Johnny Murphy in this


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

and other productions renders this line in the most upper-class, AngloIrish of tones, shifting register to indicate his awareness of social strata. Some accent alterations were therefore necessary in the play. Mick Lally has clearly adopted a differently marked accent for his Pozzo (as footage of production suggests). His plummy Anglo-Irish tones, very different from Lally’s own, represent a shift in tonal register to indicate class difference, a gesture towards the social stratification implied in the text and the play’s performance history. It is more accurate therefore to conclude that Druid employs an Anglo-Irish/west of Ireland dynamic, rather than what had by then become more conventional and familiar in Irish productions: an Anglo-Irish/working-class Dublin pairing. Druid’s production effectively reveals the tensions surrounding place in Beckett’s work, however unintentionally. On the one hand, the critical reception of the production demonstrates a specific understanding of Beckett as a poet of ‘the void’. The foregrounded west of Ireland was seen as not entirely in keeping with the resonances of the play and its capacity to speak to many different cultural contexts. On the other hand, simultaneous critical tolerance for Dublin vocalities in the performance reveals tensions within the humanist-Beckett narrative, demanding that we consider what ‘Everyman’, so-called, does or should sound like, and to consider how the pan-human commonalities of birth, death and suffering are always inflected with local differences. Rooted in its locale, Druid from the outset was adept at capturing the specific music and rhythms of west of Ireland speech. This is not to suggest however that the company played upon Irish stereotypes, exploiting romantic visions of the west of Ireland. Rather, Druid’s members were deeply aware of the glaring discrepancy between the vision of rural Ireland that had been held up as ideal in the formation of the Irish state from the 1920s on, and the far less rosy actuality of life there by the mid-twentieth century. It is this understanding of the problem of place that, as Troupe shows, drew the company into one of their most significant artistic relationships – the one begun in 1983 with the playwright Tom Murphy. Their commonalities lay in their shared resistance to pastoral representations of the west of Ireland and

The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot


their connection to County Galway (Murphy hails from Tuam, just thirty kilometres north of Galway city). Much of Druid’s and Murphy’s work has attempted to subvert naïve cultural myths, instead addressing ‘realities of the social, cultural and economic dilemmas which threaten the West of Ireland’ (Walshe 1988: 229). The absence of productions of Beckett’s work in Druid’s corpus after 1987 is part of the company’s general move towards plays that are connected in deep and critical ways to the place in which the company itself is rooted. Beckett is not entirely absent from Druid after this point. He appears (appropriately enough) spectrally. Hynes remarks that even though her direct work on Beckett has not been, as she puts it, ‘as happy’ as with Synge, she talks of ‘seeing Synge’ through Beckett, with the latter acting as a sort of interpretative frame around the former. So Beckett has had some impact on Druid’s vision of the west but could not take up place there, at least at that time.13 The Beckett Estate’s control over artistic interpretations of his drama plays a role here also.14 A certain spatial politics informed the critical reception of Beckett in that 1987 production, failing to perceive the possibility of Godot speaking from a western landscape. This reveals a geographic and cultural gap between east and west that has permeated cultural production in Ireland throughout the twentieth century. For this reason, when Druid positioned itself relative to the national cultural (and urban) centre, Beckett did not provide the needed voice. Critical opinion which saw Beckett’s work as universal and dislocated clearly tempered the response to the drama of place in this production, due to the fact that the complexity of the Beckettian drama of place had yet to find its fullest political form. It was to be an urban institution of the country’s capital, the Gate Theatre, which would (albeit temporarily) resolve the complicated drama of place in Beckett’s work, homing its dislocated spaces both geographically and institutionally with its highly successful 1991 festival and its later tours to New York and London. These productions by the Gate, together with the wave of writing about the ‘Irish Beckett’ in the 1990s, marked a significant shift in the discourse surrounding Beckett and Ireland. The Happy Days


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Festival at Enniskillen may be seen as using place to mark another, very different, shift in approach to Beckett’s drama of place. For Druid, Beckett is but one component in the life-narrative of the company, a node in a body of work that always led back to the landscapes that concerned them: the flat green fields and dry stone walls of Galway and the west, where they gave voice to the landscape and its people. It was not the right time perhaps for that marked western Irish voice to sound within Beckett’s abstract aesthetic.

Part 3

Expanding the Frame


Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City Sarah Jane Scaife

Beckett and the body While Beckett’s work raises philosophical questions about meaning and being, these are explored in the drama through concrete acts such as putting on a shoe, eating a carrot, or climbing in and out of a sack. Beckett returns theatre to its barest essentials: as Peter Brook defines it in The Empty Space, ‘a body on stage and a body watching, witnessing him’ (1990: 11). Although traditionally the body in a Beckett play is thought of and written about as not being tied to a specific time, place or culture, in reality there can be no representation of a body onstage, or anywhere else, that is not intimately embodied in and tied to such specifics. Such thinking on the theatre is influenced by phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty when he writes that, for example, In so far as I have a body through which I act in the world, space and time are not, for me, a collection of adjacent points nor are they a limitless number of relations synthesized by my consciousness, and into which it draws my body. I am not in space and time, nor do I conceive space and time; I belong to them, my body combines with them and includes them. (2002: 162)

In my first professional encounter with Beckett’s work in 1988, it seemed to me that this was an author who somehow managed to erase all specificity with regard to the socio-cultural body in his drama, not only the body but also the space or site of performance. Of course as Merleau-Ponty writes, there can be no complete erasure of the body in space and time. Beckett often uses costume to create uniformity


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

between performers, instances of which include Come and Go, What Where, Ohio Impromptu, Quad and Play – plays which erase individuality and situate figures in spaces that are not defined in a culturally specific way, at times only using light to frame space. This has been interpreted by critics as creating a sense of ‘universality’. For example, Martin Esslin writes that ‘Beckett is concerned with probing down to a depth in which individuality and definite events no longer appear, and only basic patterns emerge’ (1980: 76). Yet even Beckett’s bodies, once on stage, are forced into a confrontation with specificities, site and location. The body and the space it occupies are the primary material in Beckett’s theatre. By ‘body’, I mean the perceiving, sentient body which is also culturally inscribed, and that of the performer and spectator. Both spectator and performer are situated and embodied, immanent in their materiality. I too as an artist or director have to contend with my own situatedness, my own embeddedness in a specific culture, time and place; thus I am writing from the embodied perspective of an Irish, white, Catholic, middle-aged female director living and working in twenty-first-century Ireland. Following Peggy Phelan (1993), I see the signifying body as ‘marked’ by its social, sexual and political readings. The only place that an ‘unmarked’ body can exist is in the platonic ideal of a body, just as there can be no one chair that reflects the universality of chair, so too there can be no one body that reflects the universality of humanity. It is this idea which has been central in my journey from New York to Asia and back to Dublin to create Beckett in the City.

The origins of Beckett in the City In 1983 I went to New York to study physical theatre with Polish mime artist, Stephan Niedzialkowski, dance with Eric Hawkins, and butoh with Maureen Odo. These three movement artists’ practice encompassed a wide range of knowledge about the human body; knowledge that was not concerned purely with muscle groups and theories of

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


dynamics, but with how the body in movement and at rest communicated its ‘perceptual’ being to the ‘perceptual’ being of the spectator. In other words, these artists were using the body itself not only as a visual image but as a vehicle for communication. It is through the body and its relationship both to the space it occupies and to other bodies in that space that the movement artist communicates with their audience. Each artist explored in a very individual way notions of time, space, breath, movement, stillness; both for the bodies of the performers and then, through them, for the bodies of those watching. These three notions of the body in time, space and motion structure Beckett’s Act Without Words II. In order for the body to communicate in this way, it is very important that the somatic body of the spectator is ‘moved’ also, that not only their intellect is stirred. Beckett used this synaesthetic power of theatre to communicate on a deeply somatic level. Elements of cultural and embodied specificity were read very easily by my international colleagues in Asia, such as the weather and the descending light in Rough for Theatre I, as having semiotic importance throughout the play. A asks B, ‘Is it still day? […] Will it not soon be evening? […] Will it not soon be night?’ (Beckett 1986: 232). It is only when you experience the sudden onset of night in Asia compared to the slow bleeding out of light in Ireland that you understand how Beckett used the materiality of light and dark to frame his images. In Tokyo the natural outside light was bright at the start of Rough for Theatre I and dark by the end of it; it seemed as if God or nature was our lighting designer. Beckett was utilizing the notion of the fading out of day as a semiotic and philosophical tool to create meaning in this play: ‘Day … night … [Looks.] It seems to me sometimes the earth must have got stuck, one sunless day, in the heart of winter, in the grey of evening’ (ibid.). The fading light of day becomes a metaphor for the fizzling out of life itself. The power of the stripped-back body and space that Beckett presents us with, as S. E. Gontarski explores, is a form of ‘undoing’ (1985), and provides for enormous creativity, especially when freed from the constrictions of the notion of a ‘Beckett aesthetic’ or a kind of abstract intellectualism.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

I investigated the body in space with A and B in Act Without Words II to assess exactly how much the space affects the spectator’s phenomenal experience of the image of the body and in turn, how that newly invested body reflects back on the space of performance creating a new image in each site, much as Bert O. States suggests that we think of semiotics and phenomenology as both working together in our experience of theatre (1985: 8). As a younger director, my earlier focus was on the actor’s trained body, my own and other Irish, American and English ‘accultured’ bodies as Barba, talking about learned movement technique, puts it.1 These bodies were always white, embodying or presenting the texts in new visual and kinetic ways, in an attempt to awaken the watching body of the audience, but always within the architecture of the theatre as an institution. However, since the year 2000, I have widened the scope of my directing experience to include Georgia, and the Asian countries of Mongolia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and China. In Asia, when I directed and watched the actors perform, I brought the consciousness of the culture I was immersed in at the time into the site of performance, which in turn affected how I watched the ‘incultured’ body within that site. For example, in Malaysia, film director James Lee played the part of A. Lee is a highly visual artist and his playing of A in the piece was to make it hyper-realistic using no physical stylization at all. It was only when he crawled out of his sack for the second time in an exact replication of the first time, which had been very understated, that the genius contained in Beckett’s pattern of repetition was revealed. Lee’s understanding of the form of the play allowed him to frame reality in a way that created a whole new depth to the piece. For him, the play was about ‘two homeless people in the Kuala Lumpur bus station who were so poor that they were forced to inhabit one life’.2 This moment that Lee had created and explained to me was so intense that it changed how I thought of the space or site of performance for AWWII. This experience of watching as ‘other’ in a geographical and cultural space I was not familiar with drove me to look back at my own culture, assessing the incultured and socially inscribed body within the social and architectural spaces of my own city.

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


Stripping back socio-cultural detail so that audiences are not drawn to the particularities of time or historicity but rather to the body itself as sign, allows us to play with and interpret the body and the space where it is situated. With some notable exceptions of mixed race or all black cast productions such as the Talawa Theatre Company’s 2012 production of Waiting For Godot, Paul Chan’s 2007 production in New Orleans and Galgut’s 2010 production in South Africa, the majority of theatre practice and critical literature on Beckett’s drama has until very recently been concerned predominately with white and either European or American actors. The stripping back of those bodies was a continuation of that aesthetic; the white hair or wig of an actor would accompany a white face or hand so that the overall colour on stage was of greys and white as set in relief against the darkness. Much of Beckett’s use of light in sculpting the body onstage is predicated on the way light reflects off white skin, as when the Director in Catastrophe asks the Assistant to ‘Whiten all flesh’ (Beckett 1986: 460). However, through my work in Asia with different cultures and spaces I came to the realization that there was no possibility of ever presenting a ‘universal’ or even ‘stripped back’ body onstage. Every body presented onstage is a specific, breathing, live body witnessed by other specific bodies, usually within the specific architecture of a theatre building. Beckett chose theatre for this very reason, the experience is live, the relationship between the performer and the spectator is ultimately ungovernable. Even though there is an attempt to strip back or ‘undo’ specificity, the impossibility of fulfilling that ‘undoing’ is always present and manifested through ‘incultured’, ethnically diverse bodies. Barba’s use of the terms ‘incultured’ and ‘accultured’ when proposing his ideas for universality in theatre is particularly pertinent when assessing the ‘stripped back’ body onstage. We are always faced with the ‘incultured body’, which cannot be erased, as it is how we exist in the world; there can be no abstraction from our specific bodies. We can, of course, through intense training create an ‘accultured body’, but this cannot fully erase the primary ‘incultured’ one. The incultured and the accultured body creates a ‘dialectic’ of sorts, whereby meaning


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

is generated within the site of the body itself. By using the body with its ‘incultured’ semiotic reading, we can play with how its meanings are read and it is experienced phenomenologically on stage or within a chosen site. On site-specific work, Cliff McLucas writes that it takes things a stage beyond the simple staging of a theatre work in an odd location and seeks a whole new form of work in theatrical terms. That new form of work is composed of three integral and active elements: 1 the performance; 2 the place; 3 the public. And it is the deep engagement of these three elements that constitute site specific works. (Quoted in Pearson 2010: 37)

In an act of ‘chorography’, which Mike Pearson explains as ‘distinguish[ing] and espous[ing] the unique character of individual places’ (ibid., 31), I looked for ‘a context’ or a ‘history’ of place, a ‘chorography of place’, that would act either in revealing the world of A and B or commenting on that world in some way. As Pearson puts it, ‘performance recontextualizes such sites: it is the latest occupation of a location at which other occupations – their architectures, material traces and histories – are still apparent and cognitively active’ (ibid., 35). In light of this, I consider the nature of the chorography of Dublin’s forgotten spaces.

Beckett in the city: the performances In 2009 on Dublin’s Grafton Street I watched a young man, who was also a drug addict, attempt to pick up a cigarette butt from the ground. He was bending down so slowly he was almost not moving, like a butoh dancer in a bubble of his own making. It seemed as if he was immersed in a reality different to everyone else’s. What was so striking was that no one seemed to notice him and yet he was standing right there in their midst. His position on the street embodied for me the notion of all the differing worlds we occupy even while we live in one communal space. Just as I had experienced the images of Beckett’s drama in a new way

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


through bodies and spaces in Asia, I was having a similar moment in Ireland where I saw Beckett’s plays, themes and concerns all around me on the streets in Dublin. Akram Khan, an Indian choreographer working in England, argues that the body is ‘like a museum but an evolving museum so it’s constantly mutating. It’s a museum because it carries history. It carries generations and generations of information, cultural, educational, religious, political and so on’ (quoted in Machon 2009: 112). I think of Khan’s ‘evolving museum’ as also a ghosted body, haunted by previous mutations, and this applies to the writer, the performer and the spectator. Beckett’s ghosted body is a palimpsest of his childhood as an Anglo-Irish Protestant, and the unspoken weight of repression imposed by the marriage of Ireland’s Church and State, which is shared by anyone who grew up in Ireland. I call this Irish body ‘the grieving body’; it can be seen all around you as you walk through the streets of Dublin, in the skeletal, grey faces of addicts and the red, raw faces of the alcoholic population, many of whom are also homeless, although not all. The revelations of systemic abuse by the Church and State of Ireland, as revealed by the Ryan Report (begun in 1999 and published in 2009), has had a profound affect on the work of the artistic community in Ireland. I grew up in this Ireland, where one absorbed somatically so many hidden agendas, secrets and feelings of guilt and shame. Beckett’s scathing essay ‘Censorship in the Saorstat’ concerns the introduction of the 1929 act on censorship in Ireland, seven years after the founding of the state. In fact he refused the rights for All That Fall and the two mime plays for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1958 because of his disgust with censorship involving Joyce and O’Casey. Beckett’s characters connect with someone who has grown up under this kind of regime. By ‘undoing’ or ‘erasing’ particulars such as plot, narrative, time, place, Beckett uncovers or reveals the scar that remains, which does not seem to relate to specific characters in time, but which is recognized somatically by the Irish spectator through a phenomenological, perceptual experience of hearing the words, watching the movements, embodying reflectively the rhythms of anxiety and guilt.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

As an artist, reflecting the socio-cultural revelations of the past decade in Ireland, I wanted to re-embody, or ‘put flesh on’, this scar that Beckett reveals, through the particular socio-cultural reading of the homeless and drug-addicted body that I encountered on the streets of Dublin. I was looking to the body in Beckett’s play Act Without Words II as a critical aesthetic medium which reflected the socio-historical framework of Ireland’s past mistakes, as set in a site that reflected both past and present. I wanted to present the human encounter with the world through a kinetic image framed against the mise en scène of the city itself. I set out to create a living sculpture within the social institution of the city in order to interact with and comment on that institution and on its citizens. I aimed to disrupt the notion of a Beckettian aesthetic that came easily for the spectator, presented as it was through a system of signs, bowler hat, boots, carrot. I wanted to create an encounter with the image for the audience that would affect them as they watched and would deepen their perception of what the plays were about and who they were for. I wanted more than anything to reveal the phenomenological conditions of living for each man as he wonders ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What time is it?’ Placing the play in the public space of the city removes the safety net that the contract with the theatre building provides: the perfect dark, the anonymity of the spectating experience, the comfort of the paid-for seat and quiet of the theatre creating a collusive privacy between the audience and the performer. On the street we were exposed to the passing public who watched the audience watching, at times commenting or shouting across at the actors, at times stopping to speak with me. The first site was at the back wall of Christ Church Cathedral, adjacent to a methadone clinic; the homeless sleep in the park beside it. The bells from the cathedral ring every quarter-hour, the sounds of the city could be heard as A and B performed their everyday rituals. Although creating a more private viewing experience away from public space, the second site disrupted the hierarchy of the theatrical space. We played in the stage door laneway behind the Gaiety Theatre, drawing the eye of the passers-by on Grafton Street

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


to a hitherto private space. Each site performed itself in interaction with the bodies of A and B. When we went to London, the enormity of the significance of time and place, and the specifically Irish incultured body, came into play. I chose Greenwich, the site of the Prime Meridian, and the cardboard and strip of light that A and B performed on became reflective of the line of longitude. I began to realize the deep significance of the map and the watch as philosophical markers. By rehearsing this piece on the street we opened up the discussion of the culturally inscribed body and spaces of performance both to the homeless and addicted Irish citizens and to the tourists who passed through the lane by Christ Church on the way to somewhere else. Both of these groups helped us to assess what exactly it was we were ‘decoding’ with our new approach to the body and site with this play. For instance, a young woman who was a local heroin addict stopped to engage with us as we rehearsed the piece, and guided us.3 She corrected how Raymond was moving, showing me how he should do his ‘action’ within the play. She also suggested that he keep his pills in a plastic bag. In the laneway behind the Gaiety Theatre the chorographies of space were at play at all times as were the sounds from the street flowing down the lane, the smells of the street and the night sky above. At the end of the laneway on the main street (Grafton Street), two men lay in sleeping bags each night as we left for home. It provided a very disturbing version of ‘life reflecting art reflecting life’. Bryan Burroughs who played B spoke about the ethical dichotomy of reality versus art. ‘So there was something very odd about the performance; that if we present it as a “piece of art” [therefore] people will stop and engage with it, but if it is [actually] happening we avert our eyes and don’t look.’4 It rained in Greenwich, which gave a new experience to both performers and audiences alike, as they both felt and saw the clothes cling to the bodies of A and B, the map droop and tear, the cardboard decompose in real time. The site was adjacent to a graveyard in an old park, where homeless people spend time during the day. When B took out the map and tried to locate himself, using the compass and the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

old torn map of Dublin, it became unbearably poignant to watch, as it brought into the space all the Irish men who had come to London to work in their youth and are still here, some of them homeless, perhaps with problems of addiction. New York gave a different chorography of space, bringing the traces of Irish immigrants from the early twentieth century into the laneway where we performed. The heat was overpowering there and again the environment affected how the audience watched as much as how the performers experienced the piece. As B performed his exercises sweat flew from his head and face with the exertion, the city of New York performed itself at the entrance to the laneway, and all became one: Beckett and the city coexisting in this moment of time, shared by audience and performers alike. These works and these sites began to suggest to me that everything begins to have more resonance when played outside in the city. The text of the city, its institutions and citizens all come into focus and interacted with the bodies and props in Beckett’s text. Rather than create theatre in the city, in the West End or on Broadway, we aspired to create a theatre of the city, placing it side by side with Beckett’s texts. Act Without Words II is a phenomenological piece of theatre, operating on a somatic and perceptual level through a deep engagement between the performer and the spectator, without the barrier that language can sometimes construct. Our audiences have been representative of all nationalities, ages, disabilities, socially well-off and disenfranchised. However, when I decided to create a Beckett installation of both Rough for Theatre I and Act Without Words II, I had to search for a site that could be enclosed in some way; when bringing spoken theatre out into the city or into a non-theatre space, it is vital that the site of performance is assessed for sound, for the necessity to hear the words. Everything becomes crucial for the presentation of a site-specific spoken piece; all of the elements of the theatre space have to be renegotiated outdoors. I walked Dublin looking for the right place to create the installation. I needed to present the city in interaction with the two plays, the culturally inscribed bodies of A and B, the props, the reimagined

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


stage space, the light and dark, sound and silence of Beckett’s writing and the city co-concurrently. I wanted to place past and present, power and disenfranchisement, high art and life on the ground side by side without forcing either side of those dialectics through a prism of the other. I assessed sites in terms of what they could offer from the chorography of space, time, social, historical and financial signifiers. The city quay car park, which I finally decided on, had originally been an old warehouse, which stored coal for the city. Covered at one time by a corrugated iron roof, all that is now left is a beautiful skeleton of the structure, framing the city all around with its exterior walls. The site presented itself like a secret garden of the past in a rapidly changing city reflecting, Janus-style, the past and present. At the old double-door entrance was a steel weigh board which was used originally to weigh horses and carts with their loads of coal before they unloaded in the site. The general area lies by the River Liffey, where the boats came in with cargo from abroad, and would have been inhabited originally by the working classes or dockers. The surrounding streets contain old social housing, which has been allowed to go into disrepair, with plants growing out of the old boarded-up windows, and graffiti covering the walls, all creating an installation of Ireland’s past. Across the river lie the Custom House and the grand buildings of Ireland’s colonial past, flanked by a number of ostentatious buildings, which were built during the Celtic Tiger years by the banks and which form the financial district of Dublin. There is the immense new Samuel Beckett Bridge, which spans the river in the image of a giant harp, linking the north and south of the city. The space provided, therefore, a juxtaposition of past and present, of money and poverty, all in the one enclosed area, large enough to create an installation for Beckett’s writing as graffiti text on the walls and ground, the sculptures of his props and sculptures of religious iconography and political material from Ireland’s past. We created a living gallery of theatre art within the city. The audience was brought from a central meeting place so that they would come into the site with their eyes and ears open to the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

surrounding city. They walked down a street with derelict social housing on one side and the newly built bank on the other. As they walked down this street their eye was drawn across the water to the new financial district and the old colonial buildings. The vastness of Beckett’s world as represented by the map and watch – time and place – was represented by the vast space of the site with its roof open to the night sky. Beckett’s writings are replete with images of windows operating as eyes that cannot see, or behind which people cannot be seen. The old walls of the space came up to about the first floor of the bank across the road, the lit-up windows of which were darkening just as we began the performance; the windows of the old social housing by the back wall were blocked up or had vegetation growing through them. Once inside the space I used sound and visual cues to prompt the audience to their final spectating position, so that they registered experientially the different framings of the city, from within the site before they stopped to watch the plays. As they stepped in through the old double door they were drawn to a lit wall at the other end of the space, the back wall. This wall was made from old railway sleepers, behind it was the old abandoned social housing and above it was the rusty iron skeleton of the old roof: ‘Sole sound in the silence your footfalls’ (Beckett 1980: 18) was inscribed on this wall. It was lit, drawing the footfalls of the audience through the site to look at it. I wanted to create an installation of Beckett and the City, using the aesthetic of graffiti to encourage the audience to envisage text as physical and as political, to view his writing as vital, not just belonging in a book, but reflecting the lives of us all. I worked to engage their bodies physically through space and time, just as mine had been engaged in Asia through culture and temperature. On certain nights the full moon shone just above the quote, making reading it a somewhat haunting experience. Everything in the space was lit as installation: two sleeping bags and the sculpture of clothes placed on a strip of cardboard became the image of Act Without Words II when not being performed, the wheelchair and violin placed on a stool the installation of Rough for Theatre I when not being performed. Another quote,

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


chalked on the ground, surrounded by jam jars with tea lights in them read, ‘They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more’ (Beckett 1986: 83). We used the materials of age and disrepair that we found in the site along with placed objects such as broken religious iconography, a torn proclamation of independence, some condoms and syringes left unobtrusively among the other rubbish. ‘The only sin is the sin of being born’5 was chalked as graffiti on the old walls, adding the layers of history to the words, which felt as if they belonged in that site. Once the audience had experienced this visual installation, their aural attention was drawn by the sound of a violin scraping behind them. As they turned, the financial district lights were revealed as framed by the old rusty iron roof. Thus another framing of the city was exposed. The blind man continued to play as the chairs were placed in a semicircle around him. ‘Music’ the wheelchair-bound man shouted from the vastness of the space behind the audience, and the play began (Beckett 1986: 227). As the body in Act Without Words II reflected the drug addicted and disenfranchised of many homeless on the streets in Dublin, so too did the bodies of A and B in Rough for Theatre I. Both men are older performers, whose bodies speak of years of life lived, as sculptural, still images; they can be read as broken and disenfranchised. The voices they can access naturally brought their kinetic sculptures into a reality that reflected onto the site and back again to the play, so that it became part of the architecture of the city, not just in that moment but in its past, its present and possible future. We were able to use the corner wall to perform around, which meant that when the blind man pushes the chair for B he was able to push it into darkness leaving the audience staring in to the dark space, behind which pulsed the city. When A told B that he could ‘stay for hours listening to all the sounds’ (Beckett 1986: 233) they were different each night and as witnesses we paused collectively to listen. The ‘stage’ for Act Without Words II was placed along another wall so that the actors could use it performatively, during the play.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Figure 2  Raymond Keane in Act Without Words II, Dublin 2013. Photo by Hazel Coonagh, courtesy of S. J. Scaife.

The sound of the wall as it crumbled against their bodies, pieces of rubble dropping on the cardboard, provided another phenomenological experience of watching for the audience. This time they watched with their backs to the city and focused instead at a natural line painted on this wall, which helped create another ‘Frieze effect’ (Beckett 1986: 209), which the piece prescribes. This piece has great sculptural beauty, which interacts with each city in which it is placed. As they performed, the sounds of the city drew B to freeze in fear, listening in case it signified danger. A’s body, chosen as it was for the way it suggests addiction, trauma and suffering, was able to use the old crumbling wall to create sculptures of anguish and helplessness without ‘acting’, in the traditional sense of the word. Raymond Keane (A), speaks about how he just starts and the play takes him to where he needs to be: ‘just do the action and the meaning is released’.6 It is important to acknowledge that where I recognized the specific scar of the Irish cultural experience through the ‘evolving museum’ of the Irish body, James Lee experienced the Malaysian one through the

Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City


body of the homeless people of the Kuala Lumpur bus station. Stephan Niedzialkowski says there are as many ways to pick up a flower (in mime) as there are people to pick it up. The platonic can only be experienced through the encounter with the specific. Who is to say which body should be chosen to represent ‘the universality of man’ onstage, or indeed what constitutes a stage.


Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance Brian Singleton

One of the primary characteristics of Irish performance in the recession era (since 2008) has been a concerted move away from the controlling interiors of theatre buildings and towards a reclaiming of unbounded social and unsocial space, particularly but not exclusively in the spaces of Dublin’s urbanization. Locating performance both on the outside of theatres but also on the inside of the abandoned, the derelict, the transitory and the non-place is a political act designed to question the spectator’s relationship both with performance itself and with the unsocial spaces it utilizes. By unsocial spaces of the city I am thinking of those spaces that do not invite specularity or encourage community. While streets are thoroughfares, they have architectural signs and some have commercial arresting points to provoke at least the possibility of stopping and viewing them as scenographic. With their regulated system of footpaths and traffic lights, streets themselves constitute a kind of performative machinery, ordering human behaviour into teleological drives. But unsocial spaces have no such rules or impulses, save for their drive towards occlusion; alleyways in many cities are constructed in parallel to streets in order to hide activities behind the scenes of the specular. Often in central urban alleyways, goods are left in and rubbish transported out of alley spaces in semi-secret, often in poorly lit conditions. Such is the case with nineteenth-century theatres where the very agents of theatrical practices are secreted in and out of theatres through alleyways, perhaps to conceal their reality, but also to mark the originally low social status of the agents of theatrical


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

practice. Similarly, car parks in modern cities are unsocial spaces; if not high-rise and specially constructed, they are often found in the spaces left by demolished buildings, standing in for the failure of commerce to rejuvenate itself architecturally. In the latter spaces we abandon our cars in a rush to get to some other place, away from these lacunae in social and economic architectural narratives; they are temporary markers of society’s attempts to reform the space into a place. Though regulated and with a price tag, street-level car parks encourage no social activity; we do not linger for fear of missing our appointment with place, or of being considered guilty of some unspecified unsocial behaviour for lingering in a non-place. My dwelling on car parks and alleys will become clear below when I turn to the use of the non-place for the performance of one of Beckett’s short plays by director Sarah Jane Scaife of Company SJ and Barrabas, but for the moment I would like to consider the social and performative consequences of moving performance out of the place of the theatre and into a non-place. It is important to note that abandoning the ever-increasingly technologized place of the theatre, that machine of a supermodernity, in its regulatory and seemingly omniscient control of specularity, gives rise to a rethinking of how performance communicates meaning, and how that meaning evolves when it is rendered porous when encountering the indeterminacy of unsocial spaces. Through performance, these become non-places. My notion of those spatial terms – unsocial space and the non-place – derives in part from Marc Augé’s notion of the non-place, itself based on the reading of the practices of everyday life by Michel de Certeau, though seen through the lens of what we now understand to be the spatial practices of globalization. Writing in 1992 at the emergence of theories of globalization, and immediately prior to advances in technological communications (such as the internet) and the mass mobility of people through low-cost air travel, Augé’s notion of the non-place is rooted in the spatializing practices of human behaviour in ever increasing urbanization, networked to other nodes of urbanization by means of globalization. This urbanization reflects the symbiotic

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


relationship between what he terms the ‘world city and the city world’ (Augé 1997: xv), simultaneously near and elsewhere. Such examples of the non-place according to Augé include airport departure lounges, shopping mall thoroughfares and railway station concourses, transitory locations requiring new forms of socialization linked indelibly to the consumer practices of mobile populations. According to Augé, ‘The non-place is the opposite to Utopia: it exists, and it does not contain any organic society’ (90). From the space in front of the ATM that leads to the possibility of the consumption of further non-places, the motorway route to the airport, to the airport car park that delivers yet another set of possibilities for the non-place, to the space in the aircraft between global cities: none of these, or the space between them, constitutes a place, according to Augé. One non-place only ever leads to yet another non-place in a whirlwind of the consumption of journeying. While Augé’s notion of the non-place might indeed not contain any organic society, socialization practices have emerged within these non-places, such as advanced ticketing, class-based travel, regulated and marked car park spaces, ATM instructions to the user to choose services and opt out of a paper receipt. And these socialization practices are rooted in a discourse that marks the condition of what he calls supermodernity, a modernity characterized by excess in its ‘overabundance of events, spatial overabundance and the individualization of references’ (88).1 In this condition of excess the individual shakes off identity temporarily: ‘a person entering the space of non-place is relieved of his [sic] usual determinants. He becomes no more than what he does or experiences in the role of passenger, customer or driver’ (83). At the root of Augé’s conception is a very simple idea: ‘If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place’ (63). However, this concept is entirely based on the conditions caused by globalization that are self-perpetuating, and where non-places are continually on the move. Furthermore, is there a more rooted notion of the non-place, a notion based not on the course of a globalized supermodernity but


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

on the very effect of a globalized modernity? Is there a notion of a non-place that does not invite a new form of transient socialization, but one that either erases or denies socialization? Is there such a thing as a non-place that is unsocial? I aim to reconfigure the notion of the non-place as an urbanized particular, a casualty rather than a symptom of a globalized economic geography that Dublin city had become in its recession-era guise, and I will do this through the analysis of several performances of a Beckett play. First, I will survey the field of Irish performance outside theatre buildings and try to articulate the complexity of the various genres such as site-specific, site-responsive and canonical, before turning to the productions of Beckett plays by Company SJ under the direction of Sarah Jane Scaife. My aim here is to focus on aspects of her productions that speak to notions of the unsocial and the non-place. Through the emergence of those notions, I plan to examine both how the city provides a socio-economic context for Scaife’s Beckett productions, but also more interestingly how the productions themselves actually invoke the performance of the contemporary city. Though performance outside theatre buildings in Dublin is very much a phenomenon of the recession era, street parades by this time, however, had become a most definite marker of the globalized Ireland of the Celtic Tiger economic boom (1997–2008). The St Patrick’s Day parades in Dublin in the noughties had moved away from their earlier neo-religious militarist processions of very fixed notions of Irishness, and become spectacles of world cultures signalling Ireland’s place in the world economy of transnational human and financial mobility. In a parade in which vehicles become floats representing an imaginary world and are subservient to the ambulatory practices of the human body that slows the vehicles down, the streets are no longer streets but routes from the beginning to the end of the imaginary journey, celebrating not what the people are but how they would like themselves to be and be seen. And those routes to the imaginary are articulated in the discourse of sounds (music as indices of cultures) and scenography (costumes, sets and props as indices to history and memory, with an

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


eye to being remembered). The licensed occupation of the street then reconfigures the street from daily practices of regulated transportation to another temporary place of the imaginary. Dublin’s O’Connell Street for instance, as a place, is already a spectacle of monuments to history, shrines to religion and commerce, vehicular and pedestrian order, CCTV regulation, visibility and control. The parade, instead of anarchically releasing O’Connell Street from that order, imposes further order in the form of crush barriers and even narrower routes for perambulation. And so, pausing on parades in light of the recent vogue of theatre performances outside buildings, we see that a street simply transforms itself from one ordered place into another reordered place. The parade does not perform responsively to O’Connell Street, but imposes itself on it. And thus it is a useful framing analogy for the performances I am going to examine presently. Street Theatre that is not performing the nation or responsive to civic pride, however, is nevertheless hugely political and became quite naturally the favoured place of left-leaning political theatres of the 1960s, such as the Living Theatre and Bread and Puppet Theater of the USA and Welfare State in the UK. Moving outside theatres, with their social conventions of dress and behaviour, and for the most part their seating and pricing hierarchies, is a challenge to theatre as a social practice. While the practices of everyday life still continue, performance has the possibility to interrupt, even if it often seeks accommodation within, social practices. Whatever level of accommodation with everyday life that is sought by performance, its relocation invariably at best contests social space, and at the very least, through its performative behaviour, highlights the performativity of daily life in social space. It is often attractive to new communities of spectators unbound by theatrical conventions. It is no surprise that one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed performance companies to emerge in recession-era Ireland is ANU Productions, whose Monto tetralogy (2010–14), four site-responsive performances, performed aspects of the social life of a quarter-square-mile of north inner-city Dublin known as the Monto, one of the most economically deprived


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

areas of the city, a former red-light district, home of one of Dublin’s most notorious drug-barons, and which is marked physically by economic deprivation and the almost imperceptible signs of the more recent scourge of human trafficking. In addition, ANU’s production of Thirteen, thirteen performances in multiple locations across the centre of the city, all bar two on Dublin’s north side, reclaimed the spatial outside. All of these performances used multiple sites of various genres, from streets and alleyways, cars and trams, heritage sites to art galleries, and vacant shops and flats to an ultra-modern bank building. The message of all of this work is clear. Responding to the site’s history is for ANU a performative response to both past and present, performing the collapsing of time in the very geography and indeed very materiality of the city, in some locations which hold the residue of places that once were, or others that were never meant to be or could never be places. This seeking out of the location of the liminal is what renders these performances politically powerful. ANU’s production of Laundry (2011) for instance, the second performance of the tetralogy, took place for the most part in the now disused Gloucester Street Laundry, ‘home’ to generations of women who had been deemed by either the state or even by their own families to have strayed from the path of strict Catholic morality. In that performance, there was no polemic, no ‘us and them’. We encountered actors playing the stories of some of the real women incarcerated therein. There was no need to represent order and authority. The building itself with its locks, doors and eerie sounds stood for that on its own while the performance took place at times in corridors and vestibules – those non-places within the place itself – in which women came and went, transitory figures moving from place to place but visible primarily in the non-place as the spectators mapped their daily journeys. ANU’s work emerges from the sites though; their stories are all based in truth and reality and our encounter with them is mostly participatory. If such productions are deemed to be site-responsive, what then of performances that relocate canonical plays outside theatre buildings? Inarguably there has only been one theatre company in Ireland that has

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


developed a tradition of relocating plays from theatres into cityscapes. Since 1991, Cork-based Corcadorca Theatre Company have widened audience outreach and strengthened its cultural impact on Cork city through their move away from theatre buildings. From its celebrated outdoor version of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as part of Cork City of Culture in 2005 to its indoor portrayal of Franz Xaver Kroetz’s one-woman show Request Programme in 2011, a mime of daily life in an apartment, the company’s work has pushed theatre audiences out of their comfort zones and into intimate contact with each other. That type of site-specific work also includes more recent productions such as Wilfredd Theatre Company’s Farm (2012), performed ironically in a disused urban warehouse in which farm environments were recreated. Metonymically substituting one environment for another has been the format of the hugely successful Berlin Love Tour by Lynda Radley (2010, and performed by Playgroup), who have reconfigured Irish cities as the divided city Berlin, and Siamsa Tíre’s What the Folk (2011) in which audiences were invited to tea and a conversation (and also their bedrooms) to reveal their innermost secrets, fears, loves and losses in intimate encounters. What characterizes all of the productions is their use of off-site locations (a term used by Corcadorca), which invariably generate empathy between audiences and characters. Sarah Jane Scaife and her Company SJ’s relocation of Beckett’s work in Dublin city began in 2009 with a production of Act Without Words II that premiered at the Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival in Christchurch Lane, an alleyway at the back wall of Christ Church Cathedral on the border between Dublin’s tourist and commercial spaces and the forgotten spaces of social housing and attendant drug addiction. Featuring actors Raymond Keane and Bryan Burroughs, the production was revived as part of the Re-Viewed season of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival in 2010 but this time closer to the commercial centre of Dublin’s south side, in an alley at the back of the Gaiety Theatre off Grafton Street. The production has also toured to many other sites in New York and London, but my focus here will be on its Dublin incarnations and relocations. Later, teaming up with


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Barrabas the Company, the production returned to the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2013 with Rough for Theatre I, performed in a dilapidated car park near the south side quays that contrasted architecturally with the surrounding bank and financial services buildings. Most recently, it was revived as part of the Abbey Theatre’s Theatre of Memory symposium in January 2014 in a car park at the rear of the Abbey building. As previously mentioned, alleyways and car parks – particularly those chosen by Scaife for these productions – have particular significance given the financial collapse of Ireland’s economy the year before the first production premiered in 2009. In the preceding eleven years, Dublin’s cityscape had been transformed after decades of decay punctuated by the modernist architectural blemishes from the 1960s and 1970s. Awash with borrowed capital, the city transformed the once-derelict docklands area east of the city centre into mostly financial services buildings but also living spaces and entertainment venues for the new globalized population. All the economic and political narratives, bar one, celebrated the new wealth, the new architecture, and the disposable income of a city nearing what erroneously was termed full-employment. Not part of the narrative, however, was the largely forgotten problem of drug addiction and homelessness that had blighted the city since the late 1970s and early 1980s’ heroin epidemic and the AIDS-related deaths which wiped out a whole generation. As the rich got richer they performed their new wealth spectacularly. Meanwhile, the poor simply became invisible. Never before were the alleyways of Dublin city so out of kilter with the inexorable march of consumption and expenditure on the high streets. Home to the homeless, the alleys were non-places that were rendered doubly non-placed in the new economy. By 2009, homelessness and social inequity had barely begun to become visible again, but the blight of economic hardship, and particularly the fear of that blight, rendered a journey down an alleyway for conspicuous consumers of culture, such as an audience for a Beckett performance in a festival context, even more precarious. In an RTÉ Arena interview in 2009 Scaife spoke of how in rehearsals

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


on site for the first performance of Act Without Words II, real people with drug issues and those sleeping rough encountered the performance in interesting ways. She mentioned in the interview how her observation and photographing of rehearsals appeared to real users of the alleyway as disingenuous voyeurism, while others took ownership of the performance. According to Seán Rocks (the Arena interviewer who had seen a run-through) several told him how good the performance was (Rocks 2009). While Beckett’s characters might emerge from sacks in a theatrical environment, as the text indicates, they emerged out of sleeping bags in Christchurch Lane, at the back wall of Christ Church Cathedral into a social world where the actors’ lean bodies and their physical mime of everyday awakening into reality become charged with social meaning. Inscribed onto these bodies simply through the non-place of the alleyway are the connotations of the leanness of the environment: homelessness, addiction and ill-health. In 2010, with a reframing of the production within the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, the production was relocated, with the same actors, to the service alleyway behind the Gaiety Theatre, just off Dublin’s most famous high-end commercial thoroughfare, Grafton Street. The service alley contains the rear entrances to pubs and businesses in adjoining Chatham and South King Streets, and it also contains the stage door to the Gaiety Theatre. Stage doors are where the actors, musicians and technicians enter and leave the theatre, away from the gaze of the spectators and in less than salubrious conditions. It is an alley through which much of the detritus from business is deposited and is also, given its proximity to many of Dublin’s famous pubs and its dimly lit appearance, an after-hours outside toilet. In many ways it is the backstage of the city configured as theatre. We know it exists and is crucial to the operation of the spectacle of theatre or the community of a public house, but rarely are we afforded the opportunity, or, indeed, do we wish to see how the operation of the spectacle of consumption is constructed or deconstructed. Similarly, we do not wish to see the labour of the public house and its cellar entrances.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Such an alleyway of urbanization, according to de Certeau, reveals a similar theatrical metaphor for the city: ‘The ordinary practitioners of the city live “down below”, below the thresholds at which visibility begins. […] These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen’ and their paths ‘elude legibility’ (1998: 93). De Certeau usefully points out how and why these ordinary practitioners operate beyond visibility while the impetus of the city is to construct a utopia, that is the production of itself as city, the creation of itself as a ‘universal and autonomous subject’ and its collapse of the resistance of multiple traditions by the creation of a ‘nowhen’ (94). The idea of a ‘nowhen’ as a condition of modernity can be mapped onto Beckett’s Act Without Words II, a mime that is not simply created for the theatre but in fact appears as created by the theatre. The ‘nowhen’ of the play is such because, as a mime, it has no discourse to anchor it to place or time. Its absence of discourse prefigures its location in a non-place. In the scenography of the alleyway behind the Gaiety Theatre is a sign that says Stage Door. These are the only words visible in the performance and they act more as a verbal sign confirming the performance’s exteriority to the theatre space. Further, as Anna McMullan describes, the play ‘places two human bodies in a severely restricted environment and imposes conditions on them that are beyond their understanding or will’ (2010: 63). Performing this play in a theatre, of course, subjects embodiment to the will of the theatre machine. ‘[O]n a low and narrow platform at back of stage’, according to the stage directions, enters a ‘goad’ (Beckett 2009a: 47). The origin of this goad, this realized theatrical prompt and threat to sleep and wellbeing, is indeterminate – other than the wings, the black hole, the very origins of the machinery of theatre. Though it awakes A and B out of slumber it does so on a platform that is ‘violently lit’ (ibid.). It returns twice more, on one wheel and then on two, as if it has been reconstituting itself offstage during the action, emboldened and growing in technological capacity. It appears as modernity itself, a self-constituting spectacle, of indeterminate though presumed rationality, a universal and anonymous subject of the theatre, goading actors out of sacks and into a ‘nowhen’

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


of theatrical existence. Just as in the city, the goad and the theatre’s practitioners operate below the threshold of visibility. In Scaife’s production, the alleyway at the back of the theatre is closer in reality to the back of the stage as per the stage directions, than to the spectators in the auditorium, if it had been performed there. Spectators, I among them, entered the alley through an archway fronting the trendiest commercial street in Dublin, Grafton Street, between the Disney Store and Dunnes Stores. The archway invokes a proscenium spectacle but rather than stop and peer into the alley we were led right into it before encountering the performance. Our spectacle was of refuse, detritus, cardboard and the shapes of two bodies in sleeping bags. I was tempted on several occasions to look back through the archway again at Grafton Street, thus temporarily adopting the perspective of the inhabitants of the non-place. What I saw was the fleeting image of people passing in both directions, a spectacle of transience that maps onto Augé’s supermodern notion of social behaviour in a globalized economy. Looking back at the performance, I turned my back on that non-place to discover another non-place, devoid of discourse, spectacle or consumption, and watched a mime of bodies awakening into the everyday. Awakening into this alley of course was a performative act inscribed with social meaning because of its very unsociability. With the theatre sign on the theatre’s back wall illuminated, it looks at first glance as if the production and its personae had been pushed so far back upstage they ended up outside the back wall of the theatre. It looks too as if we as spectators are denied our comfortable social position of specularity in the auditorium and are thrown out as well into the blind spot of one of the city’s non-places, very much in the midst of the invisible quotidian and into the space of the other. The stage door outside of which the mime takes place is not the real stage door; its sign has been replicated to allow for the continued comings and goings of the real stage door. The goad, however, still emanates from the theatre and its invisible machinery. A and B are in sleeping bags on top of flattened cardboard boxes and it is these scenographic elements that point to


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

an anthropological mapping of Beckett’s mime onto unsocial space. Though the goad and all the actions of the mime are marked by their very theatricality, extant scenography together with its new imports create a symbiosis of social meaning that has resonance with the text already. This relocation works not simply by relocating the performance outside and into one of the city’s non-places, but it also relocates the practice of specularity. We as spectators have to move also into the non-place and, with the theatrical import of two men in sleeping bags lying on cardboard, we are invited into an unsocial non-place. A and B in the alleyway are not the invisible practitioners that keep the spectacle of the city alive. They do not belong there and do not contribute to the city as spectacle. The goad thus emanating from the back door of the theatre appears to suggest not bringing the characters to life but perhaps moving them on, away from the invisible non-place necessary to the workings of the city spectacle. Moving this production into the non-place troubles the production of the non-place as such, because it maps the unsociable onto it. When unable to find shelters, the homeless invariably end up in the non-places of the city, in doorways, alleyways, under bridges. We rarely encounter such spaces in slumber, as these non-places are the trade routes for de Certeau’s invisible practitioners of the city. Encountering them by means of the performance and at the back entrance to the theatre speaks to what Trish McTighe determines as the use of Beckett’s work that has been ‘embedded in these very specific spaces of the Irish industries of culture and tourism’ (2013b: 169). Since the first Beckett Festival organized by the Gate Theatre in 1991, Beckett’s modernity has been synonymous with the use of culture for nation and city building along with other more popular cultural triumphs in music and sport. Scaife’s production challenges that rebranding of the city and nation, in that the nameless figures in sleeping bags contest the very production of the city as spectacle. They may well be the visible practitioners of the theatre, goaded to life by the theatre’s invisible machinery, but in the alleyway they do not belong to the production of the modern city. They are no longer vagrants in the theatre machine but are now vagrants

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


in the non-place of a city, far from its operation as spectacle, with only a handful of spectators who bear witness, thus challenging any criticism of the production as inviting the consumption of deprivation. In the alleyway at the back of Christ Church Cathedral, they perhaps even contested Christianity, because they stood as rejects, nowhere near the front door where they could beg for alms, but slumbering in the shadow of authority that goaded them on to wake and by extension move on. And so, similarly but actually conversely to Augé’s notion of the consumers of the non-place, A and B as vagrants move on through Scaife’s production sites, from non-place to non-place, journeying through the invisible production routes of the city, and forever moving on. But moving on to where? The next iteration in Dublin in 2013 was a ground-level car park near the south side quays in Dublin 2, in the shadow of buildings towering above the spectators with the textual signs of place, commerce, trade and power. As in Grafton Street, the entrance to this new non-place was framed by an arch, though one which did not herald arrival into place, but our arrival rather into another unsocial non-place. With not a car in sight, even the non-place had been rendered void of its default use in supermodernity. The height of the surrounding buildings dwarfed the non-place, underlining its insignificance. And in this new use of the non-place, Scaife had decorated it with religious iconography, visual metaphors for an Ireland that most of the spectators had grown up in, a theocracy in all but name, whose visual signs now are indices less of Christianity and more of power, abuse and denial. A fire in an oil drum burned brightly, a row of chairs indicated a place for spectators to watch the spectacle. This was the most theatrical of all of the three performances, in its use of space and lighting. As a car park, it was not a route through social space and thus it did not blend with the everyday. Its only entrance marked it off from the world and its walled frame invited performative use. Though performed with Rough for Theatre I, the mime stood out even more for its absence of discourse. And with the surrounding imported religious iconography, A’s act of prayer subjected him to the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

structures of power inherent in that iconography. Though ritualized, the prayer marked a moment of even further entrapment, not necessarily within the machine of the theatre or its performance, but within the social power of the theocratic principles of state collusion with abuse and corruption. The silent hapless A prayed, unconscious of the environment Scaife had created around him as a frame for the spectacle. One of the most significant moments in all three locations was when B took out a map and later a compass from his pocket and consulted it. The map in these performances was quite clearly a tourist map of Dublin. The irony of B being in alleyways and a car park that are not even named on maps signified a quest for a place from a position within a non-place; the map is useless as his position is not located on it. And later, with the compass that he produces, he tries to orient himself geographically. Dublin conveniently has similar street names both north and south of the river marked by their position to the River Liffey. King Street has both north and south, as does George’s Street. But the unnamed alleyways and car park have no such named compass points – at least on the map. The Google map for the alley off Grafton Street and its aerial shot of the same street both ignore the alley, giving the impression that there is a continuous front to the architecture, thus deceivingly hiding the alleyway. But in reality this alley has a name: Tangier Lane. Its name refers to another city at the top of Africa and points to a colonial past erased by the present postcolonial urban configuration. But its name also points to a historical ‘nowhen’ and non-place. It is a marker of the Tangier Regiment of the British Army that was raised and posted to the port city entrance to the Mediterranean after it had been given to King Charles II as part of the dowry from Portugal’s Catherine of Braganza. Resistance from the Moors increased over the next two decades and the garrison was abandoned in 1684. The garrison was reported to have been bolstered by many conscripts from Ireland. There was another Tangier Lane in the nineteenth century in Athlone, and it is not insignificant that the temporary colonial incursion into North Africa was never accorded a

Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance


street but a lane that no extant map of Dublin records. As a laneway, its renaming after independence was overlooked. Now its name is a signifier of an erased history pointing to a ‘nowhen’ in British colonial history, and it is thus through its naming rendered yet again a non-place. No map records it; no historical compass can point to it. It becomes yet another useless indicator of B’s place in non-place. Sleeping and performing daily rituals in the non-place renders the characters and their activities unsocial, despite their harmless appearance. In the car park, more so than in the alley performances, the end of the performance, where the spectators leave the figures behind, took a slightly different resonance. The alleys offered the possibilities of A and B leaving or moving on when the spectators left, but the car park was enclosed and thus the characters appeared to be abandoned by the spectators with no possibility of escaping either their physical confines or the iconography that frames them. If the play were to be re-performed in Tangier Lane off Grafton Street now, it would take on the same inescapable qualities of the car park because in 2013, caving in to pressure from surrounding businesses complaining of anti-social behaviour in the lane (from drug use to public urination), Dublin City Council erected an iron gate at the west end of the alley. Since last Christmas its nomenclature as a lane belied the fact it has become a storage space for the rubbish bins for the detritus of the consumption of entertainment, from pub, to restaurant, to theatre. If we were to leave A and B now in 2014 in either the car park or the rubbish collection point that Tangier Lane has become we would invariably abandon them to their rituals, and to their place in non-place. But those rituals of performance and their sequential repetition have now no trajectory through space, no strategy to their actions. In this non-place, A’s and B’s actions are performative marks in place of acts that, according to de Certeau, constitute ‘a relic in place of performances; it is only their remainder, the sign of their erasure’ (35). But those marks in place of acts, performed in the non-places of Dublin city, are invariably political, even if nothing in the performance is political but the choice of place. As Fintan O’Toole said in his review


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

of the 2013 production, ‘the plays can function almost purely on an aesthetic level. They don’t need to be loaded with too much external meaning precisely because the place itself does that heavy lifting’ (2013: 48). And while Rough for Theatre I has a first stage direction that provides a location, ‘Street corner. Ruins’ (Beckett 2009a: 15), that this production provides in real terms, it is the mime Act Without Words II with its absence of discourse that allows the non-place to provide the space for the embodiment of the social and cultural fragments of recent Irish economic history. It also, as McMullan observes, points to how performance ‘can re-site the performer’s body in an alternative fabric of theatrical and cultural references’ (2010: 147). Further, these plays can re-site the audience as well. Spectators gathered in specific places for each of the three versions of Act Without Words II. They met at Barnardo Square beside City Hall only to be led to the alley behind Christ Church. They met at the five-star Westbury Hotel to be taken behind the Gaiety Theatre. And they met at the Screen Cinema to be taken to a car park. In this particular set of Beckett performances in alleys and a car park, both performances and audiences were re-sited in the alternative fabric of the contemporary city, in its liminal residue, and in its unsocial performativity in the non-place.


‘The Neatness of Identifications’: Transgressing Beckett’s Genres in Ireland and Northern Ireland, 2000–2015 Nicholas E. Johnson

A history of the staging of Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre in Ireland and Northern Ireland must take account of numerous performances that did not remain in their original medium of composition. The sheer volume of these intermedial ‘transgressions’, including not only the plays on film, but also stage productions that have derived from Beckett’s prose, radio or televisual work, demonstrates convincingly that this practice is not adjacent but central to Beckett’s performance legacy on the island and beyond. The power of this work in performance, its influence on the artists who have embodied it, and the material traces that its memory has left with thousands of spectators has continued to magnify and multiply the impact of Beckett on the wider culture. This type of work has only grown in importance in the context of contemporary performance cultures, in which the singleauthor drama has become a comparative rarity in many programming contexts. Drawing on the history of specific productions and their different types of engagement with Beckett’s source material, this chapter will assess the vitality of this mode of performance with a focus on the twenty-first century. It will also begin to address some of the thorny methodological and theoretical questions around genre, media and adaptation that arise as a result of these explorations. Prose performance has had a material impact on Beckett’s global reception since the early broadcasts of excerpts from his novels on the


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

BBC shortly after their composition. This transition from the ‘object’ of text to the ‘event’ of performance has meaningful philosophical implications for both the original texts and the derivative works.1 Irish and Northern Irish actors were at the forefront of such projects during the twentieth century, frequently working and touring internationally. Patrick Magee was Beckett’s preferred reader of the broadcast prose, while Jack MacGowran (with End of Day in 1962, later Beginning to End from 1965) and Barry McGovern (with I’ll Go On, from 1985) were two of the most significant creators of multi-text, one-person stage productions derived from his novels. The cultural background of the Irish oral tradition is invoked by this practice, and S. E. Gontarski has drawn attention to the ways in which ‘Beckett’s short fiction is never wholly divorced from the culturally pervasive traditions of Irish storytelling’, noting that ‘Beckett’s stories gain immeasurably from oral presentation, performance’ (1996: xii). Alongside this specific local heritage, broader cultural factors accelerated the drive towards innovation and expansion of Beckettian performance practices at the end of the twentieth century. In the Republic of Ireland, the decline of the cultural hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s, the substantial increase of wealth in the country between 1995 and 2008, and the centenary celebrations for Beckett in 2006 all laid the groundwork, in different ways, for a wholesale cultural re-evaluation of Beckett’s relationship to Ireland.2 The incentives that have driven artists to explore the Beckett canon more fully in the theatre and more experimentally in new media are clearly entangled with this wider cultural shift and the opportunities for production that it presents. This chapter will begin with a compressed history of intermedial performance between 2000 and 2015 – a period marked by prominent transgressions across the boundary that Beckett called ‘genre’ – and will then turn to both theoretical and material analysis of the concepts and conditions introduced by such practices.

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


Prose performance The clearest inheritor of the tradition of single-actor prose performance, as well as a notable beneficiary of Ireland’s newfound desire to promote Beckett abroad, is Gare St Lazare Ireland.3 The company has developed a substantial repertoire and toured to dozens of countries since the mid-1990s, receiving support from the Arts Council, Culture Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Their prose productions began before 2000, with a presentation of Molloy at Battersea Arts Centre, London, in 1996, and Malone Dies in 1999 at Kilkenny Castle. Both productions were directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett and performed by Conor Lovett, who continue to be the core members of the company. The company expanded its prose repertoire to other actors and turned often to female voices in the mid-2000s, but retained a spare solo-performer aesthetic in a wide variety of spaces, many of them not theatres. A phase of work with Beckett’s mid-1940s novellas began in 2008, and in the 2010s the company developed a new show based on Beckett’s music (Here All Night) and substantively engaged with his drama (Waiting for Godot).4 In 2015 at the time of writing, the company is developing a full-text performance of the novel How It Is, though this is not expected to be complete until 2017 or 2018. A complete performance analysis of the prodigious prose output of Gare St Lazare Ireland is beyond the remit of this chapter, but it is possible to identify some of the areas in which such an accounting might engage. One avenue might be to position these collaborators as intercultural mediators of Beckett, since there is certainly sufficient evidence of the impact of this work both globally and in Ireland, due to the company’s enormous commitment of time and resources to touring. Their website identifies eighty cities on six continents, and a further sixty municipalities within the island of Ireland, where they have performed. Until their 2013 production of Waiting for Godot in the Dublin Theatre Festival, the corpus of their disseminated work drew only minimally on Beckett’s stage drama (the sole play prior to Godot was A Piece of Monologue, presented in 2006 with Conor Lovett


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

directed by Walter Asmus). The company’s awards and ongoing highlevel venue and festival programming indicate a scale and significance to their work that is difficult to compare to almost any other Irish company. Certainly no company working solely with Beckett’s drama has achieved this quantity of output or geographical reach in the current century. There are also controversial questions of taxonomy raised by Gare St Lazare’s approach to text and mise en scène, namely whether these events should be regarded as ‘recitation’, ‘performance’, or ‘adaptation’ of Beckett’s prose. The phase of their work around the centenary was known collectively as Access All Beckett, an imperative that suggests an underlying ethos of communication and openness in their work, but which also has a political significance in the context of the Beckett Estate. The Estate has followed Beckett in being at times resistant to ‘adaptation’, a word also disavowed by the company as descriptive of what is being done to these texts. As part of their programme notes, Gare St Lazare only takes a formal stand on this issue within the administrative declaration of permission to perform. For Access All Beckett in the 2006 centenary celebrations in Dublin, the programme stated: ‘The text was written intended to be read and is recited here by kind permission of Calder Publications Ltd. and the Samuel Beckett Estate.’ This is ambitious in that it makes a declaration about authorial intent at the time of writing (a classic unknowable), but also ambiguous because of the multiple meanings in English for the verb ‘read’, which can refer to both silent and verbal acts. While there is an admirable simplicity in the performance values espoused by the company, not to mention clear evidence of extraordinary commitment and tenacity in their work with challenging texts, there is also a potentially limiting caution around directorial and design signification in favour of authorial fidelity. Hegarty Lovett has stated that her role as a director is to ‘get down’5 – a reference to avoiding undue interference with, or intervention in, the author’s text – but it is questionable whether (from the spectator’s perspective) such a move is possible. Try as an actor might to make the text the sole focus, text cannot stand

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


alone without context; audiences will tend to read the signification of body, voice, space, sound, light, and costume as directorial choice (rather than its absence). The hermeneutic compulsion of audiences is such that spectators will naturally fasten on the mise en scène for information, applying whatever is in the visible frame as a scenography linked to the text. The result of this is that each new performance, even of the same prose piece (such as Enough moving from a museum hall to a small bar), will appear as a strong conceptual choice, producing radically different results for the audience. To assert that the text is only ‘recited’ and not thereby ‘adapted’ by its performance in such resonant spaces would be difficult to argue, however authentically the purity of Beckett’s words or the minimum of intervention may be sought. ‘Adaptation’ has been more openly embraced by Dublin’s Gate Theatre as a valid description of its recent work with Beckett’s prose. This reveals the cultural authority of the Gate in the Beckett sphere, in which they are well placed to get broader forms of permission, as well as perhaps the difference that comes from producing theatre in a constant venue, where the proscenium space confers an automatically more traditional theatricality on anything in its frame. In the September following the centenary celebration in 2006, the Gate revived Barry McGovern’s I’ll Go On from 1985, a selection from the ‘Three Novels’ Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable directed by Colm Ó Briain and designed by Robert Ballagh. With flexible set elements, theatrical lighting, and a strikingly designed greatcoat lined with the Times Literary Supplement, McGovern’s one-man show suggests a more theatrical alignment between text and scenography than is present in the work of Gare St Lazare Ireland. This production went on to Sydney and New York in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and later formed a part of the major Irish contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival in 2013. In 2010 as part of its ‘BPM Festival’ linking Beckett, Pinter and Mamet around what the Gate marketed as ‘the relish of language’, Artistic Director Michael Colgan commissioned an adaptation of Watt also featuring McGovern, and under Tom Creed’s direction, it again


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Figure 3  Barry McGovern performing Watt, Gate Theatre, 2010. Courtesy of Anthony Woods/The Gate Theatre.

found a theatrical vocabulary that manifested objects and actions from the text explicitly.6 Watt toured to New York’s ‘Under the Radar’ festival and to the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012. For the Sydney Festival 2007 and the Lincoln Center Festival 2008, the Gate also developed a production of First Love, directed by Colgan himself and starring Ralph Fiennes. Though not yet produced in Dublin, in 2013 the same text went to Edinburgh (programmed with I’ll Go On and Eh Joe) with Peter Egan performing. It is clear from the international scale of these works, particularly their placement in major festivals and generally favourable critical reception, that the Gate’s status and approach to adaptation have combined to create significant impact on Beckett’s performance legacy in the past decade and a half. Other contexts for ‘recitation’ of Beckett’s prose, poetry and criticism since 2000 have often been more clearly framed as readings, and draw on a long history – particularly strong around Beckett’s death in 1989 – of his non-dramatic texts appearing as part of commemorative events.

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


The Dublin-based theatre company Balloonatics, best known for its creation of Bloomsday street performances of Joyce’s texts over several decades, was part of the 2006 centenary celebration with a cycle called Living Beckett: Centenary Readings and Walks. Placed directly around the birthdate (12–14 April 2006), performers Paul O’Hanrahan, Gerry Lee and Gerry O’Brien offered ‘readings and walking tours’ based on the prose, notably in locations relevant to Beckett’s texts (Wynn’s Hotel and the East Pier at Dún Laoghaire, for example). This programming approach renders explicit an impulse in the Centenary Festival to shadow the Irish marketing of Joyce, establishing continuity between place, time and text. The festival programme enthused that these events based on the prose ‘show the full range of the insight into human behaviour provided by this profoundly provocative author’ (2006: 10). There seems to be a link between this type of prose performance and the growing ‘festivalization’ process around Beckett. It was the Gate Theatre under Colgan’s leadership that pioneered the so-called ‘eventing’ of Beckett in 1991, later running particular Beckett seasons that included such prose readings as linked events in Dublin in both 2006 and 2010,7 but it is the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, held annually in County Fermanagh since 2012, that has truly embraced the production model of putting prose readings or recordings in significant places, with varying levels of theatrical adaptation or artistic installation. In the four years to date of the festival, it is difficult to name a prose work that has not had some form of outing in the festival context.

Intermedial transitions between stage, screen and broadcast media A pervasive feature of discussions with both academics and practitioners who work on Beckett is a general awareness of the inconsistently applied prohibition, or at least clear reluctance, to change his texts from their original medium of composition. The moment of origin for this hesitation, and the phrase that has chiefly led to the word ‘genre’ being


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

used in such discussions in place of alternatives like ‘medium’, ‘form’ or ‘technique’, appears in a letter that Beckett wrote to Barney Rosset on 27 August 1957. Given its centrality in the discourse and the fact that it is frequently taken out of context, it is quoted in full below: 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. A perfectly straight reading before an audience seems to me just barely legitimate, though even on this score I have my doubts. But I am absolutely opposed to any form of adaptation with a view to its conversion into ‘theatre’. It is no more theatre than End-Game [sic] is radio and to ‘act’ it is to kill it … now for my sins I have to go on and say that I can’t agree with the idea of Act Without Words as a film. It is not a film, not conceived in terms of cinema. If we can’t keep our genres more or less distinct, or extricate them from the confusion that has them where they are, we might as well go home and lie down. (2014: 63–4)

This dictum has been taken occasionally to be Beckett’s last word on adaptations across media or forms, but that legacy is more complex, since Beckett both authorized and personally explored such transformations. There were several stage presentations of the radio plays All That Fall and Embers in his lifetime, including a previous 1977 production of Embers at the Edinburgh Festival. Beckett collaborated on film versions of What Where and Not I, making substantial script changes in the process, after previously producing them as drama. Though he rejected many offers to put Waiting for Godot on screen, including from Roman Polanski, it was made for television twice in his lifetime, first in 1961 and again in 1977. There is also strong archival evidence that Beckett could not extricate his own works in progress from the confusion of genre as the twentieth century wore on, and that for all his hyper-awareness of form, Beckett’s thought oscillated across and between many different media in his own drafting process.8 While it is clear from the context of the 1957 letter that Beckett is rejecting an ‘intermedial’ transfer on this occasion, it would be ahistorical to read this as a permanent injunction. The statement is an epistle, not the gospel.

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


The year 2001 saw the first screenings of the Ireland-based Beckett on Film project, the largest-scale project to date to put all of Beckett’s dramatic work on film. Approved after long negotiation and led by producers Michael Colgan and Alan Moloney, the most notable feature of the project is the large number of internationally wellestablished directors and actors involved. Again, the producers include national bodies (such as RTÉ, the national broadcaster). A range of approaches to intermedial adaptation is taken, but it is clearly not the case, as Michael Dwyer remarks in the DVD liner notes, that the films represent the ‘felicitous adherence of the directors to every word and pause in Beckett’s texts and stage directions’. In some of the pieces, as in the case of the Walter Asmus Waiting for Godot, there is a feeling of watching high-quality filmic documentation of a play, creating a valuable resource of otherwise ephemeral performances for posterity, but also partly resisting the medium of film. Other pieces, such as Anthony Minghella’s Play and Enda Hughes’s Act Without Words II, seek a more radical idea of ‘fidelity’ to Beckett by taking greater account of the medium of film, using camera effects and aesthetic references to film culture to communicate his dramatic ideas. A third category, represented by Neil Jordan’s Not I and David Mamet’s Catastrophe, reflect actual ‘mistakes’ in direction or performance that fundamentally alter the works’ meaning through the complete departure from Beckett’s original articulation of embodiment, stage image or text. Though clearly significant at the time, the production of these films was an event whose full impact could not have really been foreseen, as they were made four years before the invention of YouTube. Online, many of the films are now available for free worldwide, hugely expanding the anticipated audience of those who would have bought the DVD box set or seen the films through broadcast. As a result of this mass dissemination, the distinctions in approach across directors have largely been erased, and a general acceptance of semi-authoritative weight has attached to the project, particularly for non-experts. These adaptations have huge cultural power and are undeniably shaping


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Beckett’s legacy in the eyes of many, especially students coming to Beckett for the first time. The past fifteen years have also seen high-impact intermedial transitions in the other direction, from screen (or radio) to stage. The Gate Theatre was at the forefront of this work again, programming Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Eh Joe in the Centenary Festival 2006, and then including it in the Lincoln Center tour of 2008 and Edinburgh International Festival of 2013. All That Fall was on stage in 2006 as well, in a live-actor production (but with certain radio-based aesthetics) directed by Everett Frost with Prime Cut Productions in Belfast. Pan Pan Theatre Company, best known for its extensive international touring and strong influence from experimental, postmodern and Continental practices (and comparatively less work with the Irish canon), has developed a Beckett series that has seen great success since 2012, beginning with All That Fall, moving to Embers, and working with Quad in a lecture-demonstration that includes a mathematics lecture and collaboration with ballet dancers. The approach to the radio work by director Gavin Quinn and designer Aedín Cosgrove has been

Figure 4  The skull for Embers, sculpted by Andrew Clancy, Samuel Beckett Theatre, 2013. Courtesy of Ros Kavanagh/Pan Pan Theatre Company.

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


largely to hide actors, but to place the audience in a ‘listening chamber’ or installation space in which their senses of sight, sound, and even smell are manipulated (All That Fall is fully recorded, while Embers places the bodies semi-visibly inside a giant sculpture of a skull). Pan Pan is continuing work in the area of Beckett’s radio, and at the time of writing is developing a version of Cascando. In an encouraging sign for the expansion of this work, permissions for intermedial adaptation have been given to other Irish companies without the production capacity of Pan Pan or the Gate, including the growing independent company Mouth On Fire. In 2011 as part of a series of shorts called Tyranny in Beckett (which also included a performance of the prose piece ‘As the Story Was Told’), Cathal Quinn directed Rough for Radio II on stage in the Smock Alley Boys’ School. All this activity in Ireland and Northern Ireland over a short period – let alone the global impact of these intermedial translations through festivals and touring – suggests that it is long past the time for ‘going home and lying down’.

Genre, adaptation and the contemporary Recent performance histories clearly show a wide range of high-impact ‘crossings’ between sources, modes and methods in Beckettian performance, and these activities reveal a need to reconsider the vocabulary and theory surrounding such work. What is genre (as opposed to form, technique, or media)? What is adaptation (as opposed to translation or transgression)? Ultimately, what does this work signify culturally and contextually? As a field, Beckett Studies has tended to engage more with Beckett’s use of the word ‘genre’ from within his correspondence, and less with how genre is theorized in other disciplines, such as narratology or film studies. While space does not permit a full recovery of these terms here – indeed, genre studies is itself a field – this section will seek to draw a current map of how troubled the border regions between types of literary and performance work have become.


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

The definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary of ‘genre’ is outdated, not having been updated since 1898. However, it faithfully reflects the problematic conflation that bedevils much of this discourse over the past hundred years, which is the use of the substantively different terms ‘style’ and ‘category’ in the same definition: ‘A particular style or category of works of art; esp. a type of literary work characterized by a particular form, style, or purpose.’ The etymology of the word, from the French, only means ‘kind’, but revealingly, it shares the same root as the word ‘gender’. Gender is a helpful metaphor for developing a new understanding of genre, perhaps, because it has a similar trajectory from being understood as a ‘category’ assigned from birth towards becoming a ‘style’ achieved through how it is performed. Compared to a century ago, both genre and gender should be understood as a more flexible and indeterminate ongoing event than a binary object. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia – invoked here as a reflection of culture, not for its basis in fact – offers a more solid but still often surprising consensus. In the sidebar graphic that is labelled ‘Literature’, the editors have differentiated ‘form’ (such as novel, drama or poetry), ‘media’ (such as performance or book), and ‘technique’ (poetry is listed again).9 Under ‘genres’, terms like ‘tragicomedy’, ‘nonsense’ and ‘erotic’ are listed. These seem to hark back to Aristotelian categories of literature, determined by conventions within given forms (not the forms themselves). In the most developed discussions of genre in disciplinary contexts such as film theory, genre refers to the patterning of semiotic codes over time to form structural narrative elements, and thus is strongly indebted to structuralist readings of art history and literature. Separately from the arts, there is a wide range of sociological, linguistic and pedagogical research that considers the consequences of genre as lived or behaved, with attention to the social or ritual contexts in which experience is enacted.10 This work supports a reading of genre as closer to ‘gender’, that is as a shifting set of codes that can be inhabited, adopted and discarded through play and through performance. That the researcher immersing in genre studies quickly feels like the aphasiac endlessly rearranging skeins of wool might reveal a

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


meaningful feature of the theory. What emerges clearly is that genre is fluid and contested over time, highly context-dependent, ideological, and multiple. Genre is not immanent in a work, but rather imposed. Genre is certainly not a stable given, nor a clear demarcation that is ontologically integral to literature. Instead, it operates primarily as a sorting device for prohibitively large collections of text. It serves a useful function for creators and audiences to find one another in anthologies, bookstores, newspapers, and now online. It is, therefore, intimately bound up with the culture industries and the era of technological reproducibility, which from the printing press forward created this need for organization and innovation in sorting. It may seem, if taken from the standpoint of genre theory rather than Beckett Studies, that this essay about transference between media is thus mis-titled twice over: it is neither an issue of genre, nor necessarily ‘transgression’. The suspicion of strict separations has long been a feature of Beckett Studies as well, of course, and can be traced first to Beckett’s own caution that opens his essay on Joyce: ‘the danger is in the neatness of identifications’ (1984b: 19). In the criticism, Gontarski has argued on multiple occasions for reading a ‘generic androgyny’ in Beckett’s prose (1987: 193), as well as identifying the specifically Irish context for understanding the prose as products of a voice, that is, the tradition of the Irish seanchaí (1996: xii). His reading is not the only one alert to the oral and embodied elements in the prose (see Cohn 1980, Brater 1994 and McMullan 2010, among others). These readings suggest a reassessment of current issues of intermediality in light of the past historical periods before the printing press. In a society based on an oral tradition of storytelling, what would it mean to distinguish poetry, prose and drama? Early drama, of course, is also poetry, and Shakespeare writes in both verse and prose, at a time before the modern conception of the novel existed. As a thought experiment to demonstrate how arbitrary form actually is, it is worth considering how a cultural touchstone like Homer’s Iliad might be released or published today. Would it be reviewed and discussed as a performance piece? Would it lead the audiobook or podcast charts, or would a


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

transcript of the bard’s words make the New York Times bestseller list? If so, would it be classified as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, romance, true crime, or perhaps the redundant genre of ‘historical fiction’? Strict distinction of genre does not fail solely when trying to examine how to categorize the old; it is equally problematic for the new. A wholesale rethinking of genre is suggested by digital culture. In lieu of genres defined by barriers, the internet posits a fluid continuum of text, maintained in a system not of rigid suspension (the book), but rather in the ‘fluid storage’ of a database or server, able to be transmitted, retrieved, or altered with impunity. Indeed, new works written solely for the medium of the podcast are already troubling old distinctions, and writers can cheaply create and vastly distribute narratives that exist somewhere between fiction and documentary, with production values somewhere between the audiobook and the radio drama. This was already foreseeable in 2007, before the ubiquity of smartphones and e-readers, when the journal PMLA released a special issue on genre, examining new technologies and their impact on traditional separations between methods of writing. In her editorial introduction, Wai Chee Dimock writes that that ‘stackability, switchability, and scalability are the key attributes of genres when they are seen as virtual’ (2007: 1379). The introductory essay arrives at the series of questions that the journal issue goes on to consider, underscoring the increasing impossibility of formal determinations long taken as a given: What exactly are genres? Are they a classifying system matching the phenomenal world of objects, a sorting principle that separates oranges from apples? Or are they less than that, a taxonomy that never fully taxonomizes, labels that never quite keep things straight? […] How does the rise of digitization change these archives, lexicons, and maps? (Dimock 2007: 1377)

Since ‘media’ has ceased to demarcate in the space of the virtual, it has been replaced by the unified and slippery terrain of pure ‘embedded’ content (Causey 2006). No medium can work in isolation from any other medium, any more than artistic production itself can work in a

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


vacuum, insulated from social or economic forces. The new vocabulary of genre is one of interface, cross-currents and diffusion. To cling to a unitary notion of either genre or form, at this point in history, would be retrograde. Genre is also neither politically nor ideologically neutral. However Beckett’s oeuvre in the twentieth century is categorized, it is clear that both modernism and postmodernism found genre suspect and worthy of subversion, because it represents a form of symbolic power. As copyright law that polices the border between forms implies, genre is the leading edge of law in literature. It represents an expression of division, a kind of systematic and linguistic demarcation that creates the danger of non-recognition, and hence the possibility of violence. Too often, it is based in an understanding of literature that eschews both the historical oral tradition and the aesthetic model of the event, in favour of the distributed commodity of the book. Typical of this critique is Jacques Derrida’s 1980 essay entitled ‘The Law of Genre’, where he writes: ‘as soon as genre announces itself, one must respect a norm, one must not cross a line of demarcation, one must not risk impurity, anomaly, or monstrosity’ (124). This negative definition polices free artistic action from within, and so contains what he calls a ‘principle of contamination’ (125). While adaptation might seem to introduce some of the contemporary fluidity associated with the ‘virtual’ genre, and agitates somewhat against the fixity of genre in a commodified literature, there are still pitfalls. Namely, the turn towards the event from the object in no way guarantees some great escape from the culture industry. Not only are major institutions and holders of copyright involved in policing the manner of transition across genres, but performers are also automatically absorbed into the same commodity system if they are successful enough. It has long been the case that the fame of the practitioner, as well as the presence of any personal link to Beckett, played a role in whether permission to adapt across form would be given. It is encouraging that in the midst of the most prominent intermedial experiments at the start of the twentyfirst century, even smaller companies and university-based researchers


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

have received permission for adaptations. In the ecology of Beckett practitioners and practitioner/scholars, it is possible that this landscape betokens a ‘thaw’ of sorts around the traditional boundaries of performances acceptable to the Beckett Estate or the more subtly hegemonic powers-that-be in Dublin. Favourable conditions seem to set the stage for further productive ‘transgressions’.

Fragments, experiments and traces In the wider culture, there is a steadily eroding border between genres and a speedily expanding boundary for what ‘adaptation’ might mean. In the Irish context specifically, there is an added tailwind provided by the collaboration of major cultural institutions in supporting Beckettbased work, moving beyond the mutual antipathy between the author and the Irish audience that pertained during most of Beckett’s lifetime. As the cultural and philosophical implications of rethinking genre would suggest, this has led to a still wider experimental archive of performances, including types of adaptation that do not fit easily even into the types of examples that appear in the history that opens this chapter. In fields like visual and performance art, music and dance, there are numerous examples where a Beckettian world or set of images from the prose is distilled into a different form. Are these ‘adaptations’ in the sense that McGovern’s Watt is one, or do they perhaps belong instead to the realm of translation that is theorized as ‘intersemiotic’, in which a source image or textual substrate is brought into a completely different form of expression or dramaturgy?11 Intersemiotic translation might provide a useful vocabulary for where a Beckettian consciousness or image has infused the sensibility of a different type of work, even perhaps indirectly. An affecting intersemiotic treatment of Beckett’s Three Novels was on stage in Dublin in 2014, in Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Dance Festival. Called Return to Absence, the piece was by the co-operative ensemble Arcane Collective, choreographed by Morleigh Steinberg and Oguri. The programme note is explicit about

‘The Neatness of Identifications’


the source material, saying that the piece ‘inhabits the rich and peculiar realm of Samuel Beckett’s trilogy, [embodying] the resonant images, wrought emotions and bleak humour characteristic of Beckett’s world’. In its non-narrative evocation of a Beckettian atmosphere through silence, breath, costume and physical gesture, it bore some resemblance to the Irish premiere of the 1981 dance May B by Maguy Marin Dance Company, which was presented at the Ardhowen Theatre in 2015. The programme for the Happy Days festival indicates that the piece is ‘based on the writings of Samuel Beckett’ but ‘has enabled us to lay the grounds for a secret deciphering of our most intimate, hidden and ignored gestures’ (6). Does not such work – and the verbs ‘inhabit’ and ‘embody’ that attach to its descriptions – move the discourse beyond a reductive and fictive terminology of borders, boundaries, and ‘transgressions’ of these artificial lines? Can the culture arrive at a place where the Beckettian thought, regardless of origin or genre, is simply thinkable, or rather danceable, if that is the natural order? Annual festivals built around Beckett develop their own fragments and traces that do not easily fit within existing categories of genre. Beyond such clear-cut examples in its programming, the Enniskillen festival is itself a kind of ongoing atmospheric reference to Beckett, and has whimsically expanded generic boundaries to include Beckettinspired visual art installations, musical performances, sports contests, haircuts and sandwiches. While not qualifying as adaptations per se, these events have legitimate and measurable impact on the legacy. In the academic and experimental space, Trinity College Dublin has taken an active position in exploring and developing Beckett’s legacy as a living event since 2011, the year of the founding of the annual Samuel Beckett Summer School. While international students, scholars, and members of the public gather at the university for a week to explore Beckett through teaching and a variety of other events that include public performances, intermedial performance and stage adaptations of prose have played a prominent programming role for both the school’s participants and the public.12 In 2013 the ‘performance workshop’ of the Beckett Summer School inaugurated a new


Staging Beckett in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Samuel Beckett Laboratory, founded by Jonathan Heron and this author, where performance is used in a formal practice-based research context as a strategy of fundamental investigation into Beckett’s work and thought (Heron and Johnson et al. 2014: 73–94). The sources for this experimental work that generates performances for researchers, rather than for the public, include Beckett’s manuscripts, prose and plays, without much regard to distinctions of form. That such work is not only allowed to proceed, but has also been explicitly approved, can only signal the opening of certain borders. Existing taxonomies and databases may not be well placed to communicate or archive the full range of trans-generic, intersemiotic and intermedial work, especially when the titles may no longer be from the original works, or where Beckett’s text is subsumed and translated into image, sound and gesture. This difficulty itself is worthy of consideration, and forms an increasingly crucial part of Beckett’s ‘dramatic’ legacy, even where drama is not the source. That Ireland and Northern Ireland have created a high-impact performance culture around ‘transgressing Beckett’s genres’ between 2000 and 2015 is clear. That this work is continuing outside of the large-scale festivals and major touring companies is a sign of health, and represents one path that might lead to movement over stasis, event over object, and a living legacy for Beckett in performance.

Notes Foreword 1


3 4



Among recent studies on this topic are Emilie Morin (2009), Samuel Beckett and the Problem of Irishness; Stephen Watt (2009), Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing; Seán Kennedy (2010a), Beckett and Ireland. Postcard from Beckett to Christopher Murray, 6 January 1984. Beckett wittily uses a Dublin pronunciation in his phonetic spelling of couloir. He means that in the private ‘corridor’ of his mind, or memory, he kept the vestiges, perhaps the echoes, of a Dublin accent. Simpson 1962: 87–93, and Carolyn Swift 1985: 181–2, 195–201. Swift was Simpson’s first wife, and partner in creating the Pike Theatre. After Behan’s death, Simpson worked on his drafts of Richard’s Cork Leg, which he eventually directed in its premiere performance at the Peacock Theatre on 14 March 1972, using the ‘Dubliners’ in the production. In his introduction to the published text, Simpson wrote: ‘I think I can properly claim that the work I have done on the script has produced the result that would have been arrived at had Brendan lived to see the work staged. Beatrice [Behan’s widow] agrees’ (see Simpson 1973: 7). Beckett might have balked at that word ‘properly’. Katharine Worth (1978) has convincingly shown how Beckett’s plays find their context in the poetic symbolism of Yeats’s drama and its experimental theatrical form, as derived from France and Japan. Cyril Cusack (1910–93) wrote to me (letter dated 23 June 1984) following the publication of my article for Irish University Review (1984): ‘There is a little further history on the Irish version of Godot. This, if I may say so, I initiated. I wrote to Beckett and asked him if he would be interested in such. If I remember correctly, he wrote back to say that he was not “unhappy” at the idea. […] I thereafter invited Liam Ó Briain to undertake the translation – I did not feel myself qualified to do so – and this he speedily did. It was intended by me as a commission. It was translated fully in Gaelic; however, my intention, which I think I conveyed to Beckett, was that the play should be rendered bi-lingually. This might seem to be a quixotic notion, but the motive was directed partially towards giving an impetus to the Gaelic-speaking theatre

204 Notes



and, still to my mind, has validity, with the production set in a bleak Connemara landscape and out of the mist appearing, first Estragon and Vladimir, both Gaelic speakers but also having a command of English, so that, when together, they conversed only in Gaelic, while, with the arrival of Pozzo and Lucky from Paler lands, the dialogue slipped into English. I may have mentioned this idea to Simpson, who had been my stage-manager for a time and whom, subsequently, I appointed director for my production of Androcles and the Lion to mark the centenary of Shaw’s birth.’ Cusack went on to say that when on the board of the Abbey Theatre in the 1960s, chaired by Ernest Blythe, he proposed a bilingual production of Godot, which Micheál Mac Liammóir (also on the board) supported as a ‘brilliant’ suggestion. But in 1984, having raised the matter again at the Abbey a.g.m., he was informed by Micheál O hAodha (then chairman of the Abbey Board) ‘that Beckett had refused permission for this suggested version of the play to be done at the Abbey’. Ernest Blythe, manager at the Abbey from 1941 to 1967, was dedicated to using the Abbey to help revive the Irish language. What he wanted was a kind of Taibhdhearc at the Abbey. He saw the loss of Irish as vernacular in the nineteenth century as the main reason why the Abbey ‘has had to be an English-speaking theatre up to the present’ (c. 1965), which ‘left it no way to maintain fully its Irish character and carry out its mission […] If the Irish language had held its ground better and the Abbey had been mainly an Irish-speaking theatre, it could have had full freedom of choice in so far as the material to go on the stage was concerned. […] The language would have given a distinctive rhythm and flavour to the acting.’ Blythe (n.d.), section titled ‘Plays in Irish’ (no pagination). Cited by Carolyn Swift, Stage by Stage, 194. Elsewhere, after he had become famous, Behan is quoted as saying: ‘When Samuel Beckett was in Trinity College listening to lectures, I was in the Queen’s Theatre, my uncle’s music hall. That is why my plays are music hall and his are university lectures’ (de Búrca, 1985: 12). The author was the son of Queen’s playwright and lessee P. J. Bourke (1883–1932) and Behan’s first cousin.



Introduction 1 See 2 In his foreword, Murray has referred to Morin 2009, Watt 2009 and Kennedy 2010a. Other notable interventions on the topic include Harrington 1991, Kiberd 1995, McMullan 2004, Lloyd 2010 and Boxall 2011. 3 See Gontarski 1985 for a full account of this. 4 ‘Foley’s Folly’ is traced by Eoin O’Brien in The Beckett Country (1986) to Barrington’s Tower in South County Dublin, where Beckett regularly walked in his youth and Croker’s Acres can be connected to Leopardstown, also in South Dublin. 5 Schneider argues that in thinking of performance as disappearance we are applying the logic of the archive to the event and so risk ignoring ‘other modes of knowing or remembering that might be situated precisely in ways in which performance remains, but remains differently’ (2001: 101). 6 (accessed 5 February 2016). 7 As Lonergan notes, the word ‘Irish’ has become deterritorialized: it may refer to the physical territory of Ireland but also acts as a brand, ‘a commodified abstraction that gives meaning to its purchaser instead of signifying the territory of a nation’ (2008: 28).

Chapter 1: Beckett at the Abbey 1967–1990: Broadening the Canon 1



The digitized Abbey Theatre Archives are held in the National University of Ireland, Galway. I am grateful to Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI, Galway, for facilitating my access to the Abbey Archive in April 2014. Letter from Tomás Mac Anna, the Abbey Theatre’s then Artistic Adviser, to Samuel Beckett, 2 May 1967, the Abbey Theatre Archives, NUI, Galway. Future references to this letter will not be individually cited. Theatre programme, International Theatre Festival, Theme: Theatre and Language, Abbey and Peacock Theatres, Saturday 7 October 1967.

206 Notes

4 5 6

Harold Hobson spoke on ‘The Critic and the Theatre’ in the Peacock at 11 a.m. Theatre programme, Samuel Beckett, Come and Go, The Peacock Theatre, Dublin, 28 February 1968. Letter from Eugene Lion to Tomás Mac Anna and Wendy Shea, 9 September 1976. Barry McGovern to Anthony Roche, telephone conversation, 25 April 2015.

Chapter 2: Practice in Focus: ‘That’s how it was and them were the days’ 1 The letter, dated 16 June 1984, is held at the Gate Archive in Dublin. 2 One of these productions was by Taboo Theatre Company and the other by the Dublin Shakespeare Society.

Chapter 3: The Gate Theatre’s Beckett Festivals: Tensions between the Local and the Global 1

I wish to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Irish Research Council, as well as the Moore Institute at the National University of Ireland, Galway.   Obviously, I am excluding Beckett’s first completed play from consideration – the un-staged Eleutheria – because the Beckett Estate, in keeping with Beckett’s wishes, refuses to grant it performance rights. 2 Sociologist Göran Therborn suggests that there are ‘at least five major discourses’ associated with the term ‘globalization’ (2000: 151). In this essay, I am concerned with two of these discourses: the spread of global capitalism (including accompanying phenomena such as branding and the free movement of workers which assist in the drive towards a ‘Single Market’) and the spread of an international, deterritorialized culture (including ‘the threat of uniformity in the forms of Americanization, “McDonaldization”, “CocoColonization”, cultural imperialism, and such



like’) (2000: 152–4). According to Therborn, the three other discourses relate to ‘social criticism’ (the inequalities that arise between the West and the developing world as a result of ‘competition economics’), ‘state (im)potence’ (mainly, the issues surrounding the breakdown of the nation-state), and ‘planetary ecology’ (worries over the harmful impact of ‘human action’ on the planet we all share) (2000: 151–3). 3 For discussions of Colgan’s desire to reassert Beckett’s Irishness through his mounting of the first festival, see Singleton 2004: 267; McTighe 2013b: 161; McMullan and McTighe 2014: n.p. 4 For more on the way that ‘the reception of the festival was marked by […] a sense of national cultural pride’, see McTighe 2013b: 160; Kennedy 2009: 69. 5 This celebrated production of Godot – directed by Walter Asmus and often described as ‘definitive’ – has toured to all thiry-two Irish counties and to countries around the world. It should be noted that, in the production that Fricker reviewed, Conor Lovett was temporarily replacing Brennan.   In 1988, the Gate mounted a similar production to this ‘definitive’ one; however, Johnny Murphy was not part of the cast. Estragon was played by Barry McGovern and the role of Vladimir was taken by Tom Hickey. For the 1991 production, the Gate surely knew that Murphy would excel in the role of Estragon, because of his fine performance in Oscar Productions’ staging of Godot at Dublin’s Focus Theatre in 1985. 6 The ‘retreating feet’ quote was used specifically regarding Cyril Cusack’s 1960 production of Krapp’s Last Tape at the Gaiety Theatre. 7 I was employed in the Box Office & Audience Development Department at the Gate Theatre during both of these festivals. 8 Although the pier being described in Krapp’s Last Tape is clearly Dún Laoghaire pier, Beckett revealed to Eoin O’Brien that, when he had his own artistic Damascene moment, he was actually gazing out on Greystones pier from a house that his mother occasionally rented in north Wicklow during the 1930s and 1940s (O’Brien 2011). On other occasions, however, Beckett told James Knowlson and Richard Ellmann that the ‘revelation’ took place far from any pier – in his mother’s room in New Place, the Foxrock house she bought after the selling of Cooldrinagh (Knowlson 1996: 352 n.55, 772).

208 Notes 9





Since Beckett advised Barry McGovern that the name Clov from Endgame should be pronounced ‘clove’, it is likely that he intended for Kov to be pronounced ‘cove’ – which is also how the place name Cobh is pronounced. (For Beckett’s instructions to McGovern regarding the name Clov, see McGovern 1991: 14. If Clov’s name is pronounced in this way, then – obviously – the main character’s names were meant to comically evoke the popular dish, baked ham and cloves.) Beckett told Eoin O’Brien that this was actually a veiled reference to Barrington’s Tower at the foot of the Dublin Mountains, where he used to seek shelter and solitude during long ‘tramps’ as a boy (O’Brien 1986: 27). Stephen Brennan played the Speaker when the 1991 festival was remounted at the Barbican in London in 1999 and played the role again for the Colgan-produced Beckett on Film project. (In 2001, Colgan and Alan Moloney – with backing from RTÉ, Channel 4 and the Irish Film Board – produced films versions of all nineteen of Beckett’s stage plays. As one might surmise, this Beckett on Film project grew out of the Gate’s 1991 festival.) J. M. Synge, who – like Beckett – was fond of taking long hikes in north Wicklow, describes the county’s distinctive larches in one of his Wicklow essays (2009 [1905]: 36). According to Anne Atik, Beckett was a great admirer of Synge’s Wicklow essays and even late in life could remember every line of one of Synge’s poems set in the county (‘Epitaph’) (Atik 2006: 117–19). At both institutions where I have taught – University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Galway – Beckett’s work is found in the French Literature section of the library. Between 2011 and 2013, I attended all three of the ‘Beckett and the “State” of Ireland’ conferences held at University College Dublin, and each year there were tense moments when individual scholars claimed – in the face of the overwhelming evidence presented by the conference speakers – that Beckett was not Irish in any meaningful sense. And, at a recent conference in York, a scholar (only half-jokingly) contrasted ‘Irish Beckettians’ with ‘real Beckettians’. Ackerley and Gontarski sum up the views of those who are sceptical about overly Irish readings of Beckett’s work when they criticize the ‘recent attempts of [Beckett’s] countrymen



to recolonize him’ – the use of the word ‘recolonize’ is particularly provocative, given Ireland’s history (Ackerley and Gontarski 2004: xv). 14 Simpson’s script, complete with his ‘Irish’ additions, can be found among the Pike-related papers donated by his wife, Carolyn Swift, to Trinity College Dublin. 15 Although working for The New York Times on this occasion, Wolf is the same journalist who reviewed the 1991 festival for The Times of London (as noted earlier in this essay). 16 The theatre’s acknowledgement of Beckett’s status as a ‘true European’ is also evident from the fact that the first Beckett Festival was mounted to coincide with Dublin’s year as the European Capital of Culture.   The 1991 festival did not just include the stage plays at the Gate and the lectures, readings and performances held at Trinity; RTÉ radio and television aired versions of Beckett’s radio and television plays, as well as readings from his work and documentaries about his life. As the festival programme notes, the 1991 festival was presented by ‘The Gate Theatre, in association with Radio Telefís Éireann and Trinity College Dublin’. 17 The Gate also wanted to hire a French actor to perform – or even just read – a piece in French for the 2006 festival, but, unfortunately, these plans fell through. (Among the international performers who appeared at Trinity during the 1991 festival, David Warrilow performed That Time and A Piece of Monologue in French, Jean Martin performed Lucky’s speech from Waiting for Godot in French, and Pierre Chabert read extracts from Beckett’s work in both French and English.) 18 Hurt’s first appearance in a Gate production of Krapp’s Last Tape was for the remounting of the first Beckett Festival in London in 1999, and his most recent was for a short run at the Gate itself in 2013. 19 For more on links between Endgame and the Famine, see Ulin 2006. 20 For more on links between Waiting for Godot and the Famine, see Roach 2002. 21 It should be noted that Lloyd also links the play to the essay ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ by American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe and Poe-influenced French modernist poetry. 22 In Sydney and New York, Eh Joe – the centrepiece of the 2006 Dublin festival because of its novelty – was grouped with two adaptations of prose works: First Love and I’ll Go On (Barry McGovern and Gerry

210 Notes


24 25



Dukes’s adaptation of Beckett’s Trilogy). McGovern has performed I’ll Go On around the world since 1985. In the autumn of 2011, these productions were staged at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania; Watt also played the public Theater (Newman) as part of the ‘Under the Radar’ festival in New York in January of that year. This quote is from an interview with Friel conducted by Paddy Agnew in 1980. Liam Neeson played the title role in Eh Joe in New York and Charles Dance took the part in Sydney. Ralph Fiennes starred in the stage adaptation of First Love in both cities. Julianne Moore and Cynthia Nixon read extracts from Beckett’s work in New York (as did the musician Lou Reed). While Potter’s Irish reviews were generally positive, Coveney argued that she ‘ruined the interchange of taped voice and actual presence by dying too visibly and letting her head drop on her chin at the end’ (1991: 56). Linehan was also cast in the role for Colgan’s Beckett on Film project in 2001.

Chapter 4: Practice in Focus: Clarity in Confusion – the Adaptability and Durability of Beckett in Belfast 1 2 3

H. Cleary, Facebook message to D. Grant, 27 February 2015. Kris Halpin, personal interview with D. Grant, 4 March 2015. Gabor Tompa, personal interview with D. Grant, 26 January 2015. Henceforth referred to in parentheses in the text as Tompa 2015.

Chapter 5: Beckett out of Focus: Happy Days and Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Focus Theatre 1

Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy, unpublished interview with S. O’Gorman, 20 March 2015. Henceforth referred to in the text as (Burke-Kennedy 2015).

Notes 2 3 4 5 6 7 8



Happy Days and Mooney and his Caravans (1970), Programme note, Focus Theatre Papers, MS 44, 832/1, National Library of Ireland, Dublin. Tom Hickey, unpublished interview with S. O’Gorman, 19 March 2014. Peter Sheridan, unpublished interview with S. O’Gorman, 25 June 2015. Henceforth referred to in the text as (Sheridan 2015). Everett, J. (1985), Letter to Nazareth Arts Centre Subscribers, Peter Sheridan’s Personal Collection. Liz Brogan, telephone interview with S. O’Gorman, 5 May 2015. Henceforth referred to in the text as (Brogan 2015). Nora Connolly, telephone interview with S. O’Gorman, 3 May 2015. Henceforth referred to in the text as (Connolly 2015b). Peters, N. (1991), Letter to Ms Nora Connolly, 28 November, Focus Theatre Papers, MS 44, 843/8, National Library of Ireland, Dublin. Fiona Kelly, telephone interview with S. O’Gorman, 5 May 2015.

Chapter 6: ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot’: Destitution in Waiting for Godot in Relation to the Irish Performance Tradition 1 2 3 4 5 6

See, for example, Harrington 1991, Rose 1971, Dolan 1984, Schirmer 1981, and Parsons 2013. The word cipher evolved from the Arabic word sifr, meaning zero. Barthes’ essay is a critique of The Family of Man exhibition in New York in 1955, coincidentally the same year as Godot premiered at the Pike. Dáil Debates, 9, 30 October, 1924, p. 563, cited in Lee 1989: 127. Patrick McGilligan Papers, P35/A/28. J. Hooper on unemployment – September 1930, cited in Lee 1989: 126. Even Karl Marx has little regard for those who fall outside the class structure as indicated in this extract from Chapter 5 of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte where vagagonds are categorized in an undifferentiated amorphous mass of criminals and ne’er do wells: ‘Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the

212 Notes bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème.’ 7 The term scrofulous means diseased, particularly in relation to livestock, thus demarcating the tramps as animalistic in their degeneration. 8 Simpson is writing at a time before the civil rights movements and political correctness changed attitudes long held in Europe and the Western world towards people of African and Asian origin. 9 P. S. O’Hegarty, ‘A Drama of Disillusionment’, Irish Statesman (7 June 1924), 399, quoted in Hogan and Burnham, 1992: 146–7. 10 M. Esslin (1980 [1968]), The Theatre of the Absurd. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Chapter 7: Staging Beckett in Ireland: Scenographic Remains 1


Such as Sweeney 2008 and Grene and Lonergan 2008. I am drawing here on scholarship relating to staging dramatic texts rather than on the broader field of Irish performance studies which analyses a broad spectrum of cultural performances, as in Brady and Walsh 2009. See, for example, Cerquoni 2007 and Lonergan 2009: 47. Cerquoni argues that: ‘Because of its vast popular and critical acclaim, this set design has become iconic of the theatrical imagery of the play’ (185). Vaněk has designed for most of the major theatre, opera and dance companies in Ireland since 1984, and was Director of Design at the Abbey from 1995 to 1997. In addition to the premiere of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, his designs include Mason’s 1994 production of Frank McGuinness’s Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, and Thomas Kilroy’s The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde (1997), also directed by Mason.



See, for example, Theatre and Performance Design (Routledge), Theatre Arts Journal: Studies in Scenography and Performance (Tel Aviv University) and Scene (Intellect), all founded relatively recently. 4 There had been previous exhibitions, Stage Design at the Abbey, for example, held at the Peacock Theatre in 1967, and the exhibition and catalogue which celebrated fifty years of the Gate Theatre included many images of theatre design (Pine 1978), as does Christopher Fitz-Simon’s illustrated history of the Abbey (Fitz-Simon 2003). However, the exhibition and catalogue of Scene Change was a significant placing of scenographic history within the history of the national theatre and indeed Irish theatre more widely. 5 ‘Performing Space: A Symposium on Theatre Design’, held in Trinity Long Room Hub, 9 October 2014, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival, was organized by Siobhán O’Gorman and Noelia Ruiz. See https:// (accessed 7 August 2015). 6 There is increasing interest in Jocelyn Herbert’s designs for many of Beckett’s plays, with the 2015 Annual Jocelyn Herbert Lecture at the London National Theatre delivered by Walter Asmus, who worked with Samuel Beckett on several productions directed by the author. See McMullan (2014) and McMullan and McTighe on Beckett and Irish scenographic history (2015). 7 Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Monica Frawley come from an interview with the author in Dublin, 20 May 2015. 8 ‘Staging Beckett: The Impact of Productions of Beckett’s Plays in the UK and Ireland’ was a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Councilfunded project which ran from 2012 to 2015. It compiled a database of professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland, with accompanying research resources: see research/ftt-staging-beckett.aspx (accessed 8 February 2016). The project was a collaboration between the universities of Reading and Chester, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 9 For data on some of these productions, see the Staging Beckett database: (accessed 8 February 2016). 10 See also Pilkington 2001: 151–8 for a more general discussion of the Pike Theatre, and FitzPatrick Dean 2011 for a discussion of Beckett’s reception in Ireland in the 1950s. 3

214 Notes 11 See, for example, O’Donoghue 2004: 25; Sisson 2011: 39–55; and Morash and Richards 2013: 48–74. 12 Programme of Waiting for Godot, Pike Theatre, 1955, University of Reading Beckett Collection MS 3165. 13 The Irish Times 18 July 1966. For more details of the new building see Morash 2012: 225–9. 14 Christopher Baugh, interviewed by A. McMullan, 13 March 2014. 15 The Abbey Theatre’s Oral History project includes memories of Tomás Mac Anna: see project/ (accessed 15 August 2015). 16 Previous Artistic Directors of the ITC were Phyllis Ryan and Godfrey Quigley, Joe Dowling and Edward Golden. See Fitz-Simon 1988: 19. 17 According to a review by David Nowlan of the opening night of the tour in Limerick Belltable in the Irish Times of 17 February 1982, the ITC tour included Sligo, Galway, Monaghan, Coleraine and Tralee. Godot then played at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin, according to a review by Maeve Kennedy, The Irish Times, 30 March 1982. 18 This and subsequent quotes from Frawley are from her 2015 interview with A. McMullan.

Chapter 8: ‘In Bantu or Erse’: Staging Beckett in Irish 1

See for example Alan Graham: ‘“So much Gaelic to me”. Beckett and the Irish Language’ in Journal of Beckett Studies 24 (2) (2015): 163–79, for a fuller description of use of and references to Irish in Beckett’s work. 2 See the description of the Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe Collection, Hardiman Library, NUI Galway. Available online: http://archives.library. (accessed 21 December 2014). 3 Tom Kenny interviewed by F. Whelan, Galway, 12 March 2015. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Bríd Ó Gallachóir interviewed by F. Whelan, 16 April 2015. 7 Gabriel Rosenstock interviewed by F. Whelan, 23 March 2015. 8 Cathal Quinn interviewed by F. Whelan, 23 March 2015. 9 Interview, Ó Gallachóir.



Chapter 9: The Sonic Geography of Druid’s Waiting for Godot 1

I am grateful to John Hobbs and to Shelley Troupe for their kindness and generosity in reading and commenting on early drafts of this essay. 2 Simpson, A. (1955), annotated director’s copy of Waiting for Godot, Pike Theatre Collection MS10730a/1, Trinity College, Dublin. 3 Irish Theatre Company (1982), Waiting for Godot Spring Tour programme, Druid Theatre Archive T2, box 6, Folder T2/145, Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway. I am grateful to Barry Houlihan, archivist at NUI, Galway, for facilitating my access to the Druid Archive. 4 Island Protected by a Bridge of Glass is an example of work written by Hynes herself, see J. Hynes, ed. (1985), photocopy of the book Druid – the First Ten Years, Druid Theatre Archive T2/542, Hardiman Library: National University of Ireland, Galway. 5 They called these tours ‘Unusual Rural Tours’ or ‘URTs’ and they included many small towns in the south and west of the country. See for further details. 6 Gary Hynes, interviewed by T. McTighe, 19 December 2013. 7 Ibid. 8 Waiting for Godot (1987) Production video, DVD format, Druid Theatre Archive, James Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway. As well as appropriate concern for the limitations of such a document, it must be noted also that this video does not represent the original casting choices; Johnny Murphy took over when Ray McBride left the cast (and the company) during the extended run of the play (Sheridan 1987b). 9 Hynes, G. (1987), annotated director’s copy of the Faber and Faber edition of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Druid Theatre Archive T2/146, Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway. 10 The Spring Tour played at An Taibhdhearc in March of 1982, presenting three nights of Synge’s Well of the Saints with Yeats’s On Baile’s Strand and three nights of Waiting for Godot. 11 For more detailed commentary on these accusations of ‘recolonization’ levelled at O’Brien, see Kennedy 2010a: 5.

216 Notes 12 John Harrington’s The Irish Beckett (1991) is an excellent example of a careful consideration of Irish traces in Beckett’s text. Similarly, Beckett in Dublin (1992) edited by Steve Wilmer contains chapters devoted to Beckett’s Irishness. These publications, together with chapters devoted to the author in David Lloyd’s Anomalous States (1994) and Declan Kiberd’s Inventing Ireland (1995), are important contributions to the reimagining of Beckett’s relationship to his native land. 13 Such understandings are evident in later readings of Beckett’s work such as, for example, Joseph Roach’s commentary on Godot in which he points out how the play performs animality, scarcity and death, associating hunger with violence, out of which connections may be drawn to the landscape of famine Ireland – an evocation of geographical and historical specificity which does not, however, Roach goes on to point out, foreclose more general implications (2002: 90–2). 14 Interview, Hynes.

Chapter 10: Practice in Focus: Beckett in the City 1

2 3

4 5

Barba draws the term from anthropology, which defines ‘inculturation’ as the ‘passive sensory-motor absorption of the daily behaviour of the given culture’, a sort of naturalness of behaviour and gesture, while ‘acculturation’ involves the use of ‘specific body techniques which are separate from those used in daily life. […] Acculturation technique is the distortion of usual (natural) technique in order to recreate it sensorially in a fresh and astonishing way’ (Barba and Savarese 2007: 257–8). James Lee in conversation with Sarah Jane Scaife, May 2006. Anonymous passer-by, in conversation with Sarah Jane Scaife during onsite rehearsals for the Dublin Fringe production of Act Without Words II, August 2009. Bryan Burroughs, in conversation with Sarah Jane Scaife, Dublin Theatre Festival October 2010. While this is a sentiment present in much of Beckett’s writing (and expressed explicitly in the essay on Proust), this famous quote comes from the 1970 piece ‘Samuel Beckett talks about Beckett’, in Vogue magazine.

Notes 6


We found that we kept repeating this phrase when we found something new in rehearsals from 2009 to 2012.

Chapter 11: Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance 1

‘Spatial overabundance’ is derived from a notion of the experience of the world as an overload in terms of the journeying from place to place. Thus instead of simply moving from place to place we find ourselves at interchanges, stations and estates. Further, the ‘individualization of references’ derives from Augé’s reading of Vincent Descombes’ notion of place being situated within and constructed by rhetorical communication that interpellates the individual; ‘home’ according to Descombes is not predicated as much on geography as it is on rhetoric.

Chapter 12: ‘The Neatness of Identifications’: Transgressing Beckett’s Genres in Ireland and Northern Ireland, 2000–2015 1


This analysis is extended in my forthcoming monograph, Object and Event: The Performance of Samuel Beckett’s Prose. My research into Beckett’s prose in performance internationally has identified more than 200 separate productions that fit this category since 1956. There has been much recent scholarship exploring Beckett’s complex relationship to Ireland, some of which can be found in the present volume (see Feargal Whelan). The publication of the first three volumes of Beckett’s letters in the past decade has extended access and detail to Beckett’s own negative views of the country he left behind, and the annual conference series (2011–13) at University College Dublin called ‘Beckett and the “State” of Ireland’ has provided a vibrant forum for scholars to engage with the issue. Relevant recent publications exploring this in more detail include Patrick Bixby’s Samuel Beckett and the Postcolonial Novel (2009), Seán Kennedy’s Beckett and Ireland (2010a),

218 Notes

3 4



and Anna McMullan and Trish McTighe’s recent article ‘Samuel Beckett, the Gate Theatre Dublin, and the Contemporary Irish Independent Theatre Sector: Fragments of Performance History’ (2014). This chapter uses the current name of the company, though for much of the period of this work it was known as ‘Gare St Lazare Players Ireland’. A substantial number of the company’s Beckett premieres in the early 2000s were in partnership with the Kilkenny Arts Festival; their first full presentation of Beckett’s novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable was at Kilkenny Castle in 2000, billed as The Beckett Trilogy. The premiere of Lessness with Olwen Fouéré took place at Kilkenny’s Rothe House and Kilkenny Courthouse in 2002. In the Dublin Fringe Festival of 2004, Enough opened at Casino Marino with Ally Ní Chiaráin, later playing in the massive Shaw Room of the National Gallery, and the next year in ‘The Other Place’, a small bar space in Cork. Around the Cork European City of Culture celebrations in 2005, there were a number of further premieres under Hegarty Lovett’s direction: Texts for Nothing with Conor Lovett appeared in the Cork Masonic Lodge (texts III, VIII, and XI), and a complete Worstward Ho was performed by Lee Delong in the Cork Public Museum, in a room otherwise filled by ancient stones, tools and objects. As Anna McMullan notes regarding the use of atmospheric spaces during this period of their work, ‘the resonances of [their] habitual functions were both exploited and transformed’ (2010: 139). The ‘novella period’ includes First Love (Siamsa Tíre, Tralee) and The End (Kilkenny Castle) both making premieres in 2008, followed by The Calmative at Cork Opera House in 2010. In 2013 in partnership with the Brighton Festival, Here All Night premiered, a show that includes poetry and prose text, as well as performances of the music appearing in Beckett’s prose, especially Watt. With overall direction still provided by Hegarty Lovett and music direction by Paul Clark, the piece featured Irish fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and soprano Melanie Pappenheim, alongside Conor Lovett. Hegarty Lovett stated this in an interview context with the author on 10 November 2004, during the Access All Beckett project, a phase of Gare St Lazare’s work that tended to be more experimental with alternative spaces. McGovern noted in print that the only props used in the show are ‘a hat



and coat (as described in the book), a coatstand, two small cases and a chair’ (2014: 112), but this is a considerably larger inventory, and higher degree of verisimilitude, than a ‘reading’ or the work of Conor Lovett would contain. 7 Readings were also included in the Gare St Lazare Ireland centenary project, further illustrating the distinction in both aesthetics and marketing between ‘recitations’ and ‘performances’ in their work, though in a revealing inversion, much of their non-memorized reading material presented that year was drawn from the drama, while the fully mounted performances were mostly prose. The readings from ‘prose, poetry, and plays’ took place 8–9 April 2006 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and at chq on 13 April 2006, and John Kavanagh, Anna Manahan and company members are credited. 8 The manuscript of Stirrings Still/Soubresauts (Beckett 2011a: 3r) features a remarkable moment in which Beckett seems to begin with his idea in drama, writing three short scenes (or possibly drafts of the same scene) that form the so-called ‘Shakespeare/Bare Room’ fragment, then drawing a line and continuing as prose. This text was also the source for the first project of the Samuel Beckett Laboratory (2013). 9 The graphic sidebar with these terms appears at wiki/Literary_genre (accessed 6 April 2015). 10 The field of linguistics has the ‘Sydney School’ or Systemic Functional Linguistics, which researches social contexts and functions of genres, often in pedagogical contexts (see Halliday 1978, Martin and Rose 2008) as well as English for Specific Purposes or ‘ESP’ research, which uses genre to teach non-native English speakers (see Swales 1990). In sociology, the field of Rhetorical Genre Studies developed the theory of genre as a social activity (see Miller 1984, Freadman 1994, Berkenkotter and Huckin 1995, and Devitt 2000 and 2004). For further detail on the contemporary open reading of literary genre as a flexible practice, see David Fishelov (1993) and Paul Alpers (1982). I am also indebted to the useful introduction by Anis Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reif (2010) for this map of a field in which I am not a specialist. 11 I am indebted to Burç İdem Dinçel for his introduction and guidance on this discourse from translation studies, presented in regard to Beckett and Tadashi Suzuki at the Staging Beckett conference in 2014. Dinçel’s

220 Notes published work has provided a detailed account of this theory as it refers to the contemporary performance of Greek Tragedy (see Dinçel 2013). 12 At the Beckett Summer School, programming has included Gare St Lazare’s The End (2011) and The Beckett Trilogy (2015); Pan Pan’s Embers (2013) and Quad (2015); Walter Asmus’s new version of What Where (2014); Company SJ’s Fizzles (2014); Nicholas Johnson and Matthew Causey’s Abstract Machines (2011); and annual prose or poetry readings by Barry McGovern as well as other actors. Comparatively few plays have been performed.

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224 Bibliography Brater, E. (1987), Beyond Minimalism: Beckett’s Late Style in the Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brater, E. (1994), The Drama in the Text: Beckett’s Late Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brater, E. (2011), Ten Ways of Thinking About Samuel Beckett: The Falsetto of Reason. London: Methuen. Brook, P. (1990), The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate. London: Penguin. Brown, J., ed. (2002), In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from the North of Ireland. Galway: Salmon Publishing. Burch, S. D. (2013), ‘Lineage: Acting and Theatre’, in Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty, edited by B. McAvera and S. D. Burch, 59–67. Dublin: Carysfort. Carnicke, S. M. (2009), Stanislavsky in Focus, 2nd edn. New York: Routledge. Casanova, P. (2006), Samuel Beckett: Anatomy of a Literary Revolution, translated by G. Elliott. London: Verso. Causey, M. (2006), Theatre and Performance in Digital Culture. London: Routledge. Census 2011, Profile 9. What we Know. Dublin: Central Statistics Office, 26–7. Available online: documents/census2011profile9/Profile,9,What,we,know,full,doc,for,web. pdf (accessed 6 January 2015). Cerquoni, E. (2007), ‘The Transience of the Visual Image in Touring Theatre: Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa’, in Irish Theatre in England, edited by R. Cave and B. Levitas, 183–91. Dublin: Carysfort Press, with the assistance of the Arts Council /An Chomhairle Ealaíon. Chambers, L., G. FitzGibbon and E. Jordan, eds (2001), ‘Michael Colgan in Conversation with Jeananne Crowley’, in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, 76–89, Dublin: Carysfort Press. Clarke, G. (1998), ‘A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998’, in Five Fields. Manchester: Carcanet Press. Cohn, R. (1980), Just Play: Beckett’s Theatre. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Colgan, G. (1991a), ‘Three More Beckett Pieces at the Gate’, The Irish Times, 15 October: 8. Colgan, G. (1991b), ‘Beckett Brought Home in Radiant Darkness: The



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Index The letter f following an entry indicates a figure Aaron, Geraldine 140 Abbey Theatre xvii, xviii, xxv–xxvi, 4, 24–5, 109–10 see also Peacock Theatre Blythe, Ernest and 109–10 Dowling, Joe and 21 Endgame and 27 Happy Days and 22 Hunt, Hugh and 14–15, 113, 114 International Theatre Seminar 5–6 Krapp’s Last Tape and 14, 15–16 Mac Anna, Tomás and 112–13 Purgatory and 14, 15–16 realism and 91 stage design and 109 Waiting for Godot and 3, 4, 8–14, 112–15 Yeats, W. B. and 109 absurdity 101 accents xv, xvi, 40, 43–4, 98, 137 class and 98–9 Dublin and 98–9, 100, 101, 102, 112, 145–6 France and 99 Piece of Monologue, A and 41 Waiting for Godot and 63, 78, 98–9, 138, 141–2, 145, 147–8 Access All Beckett (Gare St Lazare Players Ireland) 188 Act Without Words I (Beckett, Samuel) 139, 140, 192 see also Gníomh Gan Focail MacGowran, Jack and 6, 16 Molloy, John and 16 reviews 16 Scaife, Sarah Jane and 21

Act Without Words II (Beckett, Samuel) 155, 156, 160–6, 166f, 175, 178–84 Burroughs, Brian and 161, 175 Hughes, Enda and 193 Keane, Raymond and 161, 166, 166f, 175 Lee, James and 156 reviews 183–4 Scaife, Sarah Jane 21, 155, 156, 160–6, 177, 179–81 actors/acting 32–3, 53–4, 69–72 adaptation 33, 39, 185, 188–95, 199–201 Ag Fanacht le Godot (Beckett, Samuel) 12, 34, 136 see also Waiting for Godot Aisling Ghéar xix, 130, 134 Aisteoirí Aon Dráma 130–1 ‘Aknefton’ ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot?’ 94, 96, 97 Albery, Donald 125 All I Can Manage, More Than I Could (Reid, Alec) xvii, 138–9 All That Fall (Beckett, Samuel) 34, 124–5, 159, 192, 194–5 alleyways 169, 176–8, 179, 180–3 An Damer 125 An Taibhdhearc 127 ANU Productions 173–4 Arcane Collective 200 Archer, Kane 68 Aristotle 98 Arrabal, Fernando Orison 140 Arts Council of Ireland 45, 110, 115

238 Index ‘As the Story Was Told’ (Beckett, Samuel) 195 Asia 155, 156–7 Asmus, Walter 30, 31, 108, 188, 193 ‘Aspects of Directing Beckett’ (Barnes, Ben) 19 At the Hawk’s Well (Yeats, W. B.) 15 audiences 53–7, 90, 134–5, 175, 188–9, 195 Beckett in the City project and 160, 163–6, 179–80, 184 Augé, Marc 170–1, 179, 181 Bald Primadonna, The (Ionesco, Eugène) 58 Ballagh, Robert 29, 189 Balloonatics theatre company 191 Living Beckett: Centenary Readings and Walks 191 Barba, Eugenio 156, 157 Barlow, Alan 113 Barnes, Ben 19, 20, 27, 116 ‘Aspects of Directing Beckett’ 19 Barrabas the Company 175 Barrault, Jean-Louis 7 Barrington, Kathleen: Come and Go and 8 Barry, Sebastian: Steward of Christendom, The 10 Barthes, Roland: ‘Great Family of Man, The’ 93 Bateson, Timothy 23 Baugh, Christopher 113, 116 Beckett, John 35 Beckett, Samuel 78 adaptation and 192 biography 92 Colgan, Michael and 29–30 influences and 91–2 Ireland and xviii, 24, 121–2 McGovern, Barry and 29–30 musicality and 129 Nobel Prize for Literature and 3, 9, 68, 89

production bans and 83–4 stage appearance of 24 Synge, John Millington and 91–2 teaching and xxi Beckett and Behan and a Theatre in Dublin (Simpson, Alan) xv, 90 Beckett and Ireland (Kennedy, Seán) 122 ‘Beckett at 80’ (McGovern, Barry) 34 Beckett/Beckett (Mercier, Vivian) 122 ‘Beckett Brand’ 74, 78 Beckett Centenary Festival (2006) 39, 40–1, 42, 44, 48, 191 Beckett Country, The (O’Brien, Eoin) 146 Beckett Estate, the 62, 82, 83–4, 188, 200 Beckett Festival (1991) 22, 30–1, 39–42, 74, 108, 146 celebrity casting and 48–9 reviews 40 touring and 32, 44 ‘Beckett in Paris’ (McGovern, Barry) 35 Beckett in the City project 154–67, 175–6, 177, 179–84 Beckett on Film project 31, 193–4 Beckett Pinter Mamet Festival (2010) 39, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49 ‘Beckett productions in Ireland: A Survey’ (Murray, Christopher) 104, 114–15, 117–18 Beckett Studies 90, 93, 195, 197 Beginning to End (MacGowran, Jack) 6–7, 24, 28–9, 186 Behan, Brendan xxi, 91 Borstal Boy, The 113 Quare Fellow, The xvi Richard’s Cork Leg 203 n.4 Belfast 55–6, 58, 59, 65, 129–30 Bergson, Henri 54 Berlin Love Tour (Radley, Lynda) 175 Bewick, Pauline 110 Birkett, Jennifer xxii

Index blarney 101 Blin, Roger 92 Blogh (Beckett, Samuel) 133 see also Rough for Theatre I Blythe, Ernest xix–xx, 3, 4 body, the 153–61, 164, 165–7 accultured 156, 157–8 incultured 157–8, 161 Ireland and 159–60 Khan, Akram and 159 Boland, John 144 Borstal Boy, The (Behan, Brendan) 113 Bort, Eberhard 59 Both, Andrei 52, 61 Bradley, David 33, 48 brain function 54–5 ‘Brand Ireland’ xxvi Bread and Puppet Theater 173 Break a Leg (Sheridan, Peter) 75 Brecht, Bertolt 5 Galileo 113 Brennan, Stephen 31, 40, 41 Brogan, Liz 80, 84 Brook, Peter: Empty Space, The 153 Brown, Christy: Down all the Days 72 Bruce, Brenda 34 Burke-Kennedy, Declan 68, 69, 70, 71 Burke-Kennedy, Mary Elizabeth 69, 70, 72 Burroughs, Brian 161, 175 butoh 154–5 By the Bog of Cats (Carr, Marina) 116, 117 Byrne, Austin 98 Caffrey, Peter 36 Campion, Sean 53, 58, 60–1 Camus, Albert: ‘Myth of Sisyphus, The’ 101–2 Capital of the Ruins, The (Beckett, Samuel) 35


capitalism 45 car parks 170, 176, 181–3 Carnicke, Sharon Marie 70, 71 Carr, Marina 79 By the Bog of Cats 116, 117 Carroll, Daphne 32 Carson, Ciarán 129–30, 132 Carysfort Press 104 Casanova, Pascale 122 Cassidy, Máirín 23 Casson, Bronwen 108 casting 48–9 Catastrophe (Beckett, Samuel) 21, 133, 157, 193 Cave, Des 11 ceasefires 55, 59 celebrity casting 48–9 censorship 25–6, 64, 159 ‘Censorship In the Saorstat’ (Beckett, Samuel) 25, 159 Certeau, Michel de 170, 178, 183 Chan, Paul 157 Chaplin, Charlie 13, 91, 92, 97, 115 Charabanc Theatre Company 52 Chase, Mary: Harvey 127 Chekhov, Anton 71 Chesterton, G. K.: Surprise, The 110–11 Christo 116–17 cinema 91, 192–3 city, the 162–6, 175–83 see also urbanization unsocial space and 169–70, 180 Clancy, Andrew 194f Clarke, Gillian: ‘Difficult Birth: Easter 1998, A’ 55 class 92–3, 96, 111, 146, 148 accent and 98–9 comedy and 97–8 language and 123 clergy, the 127 Colgan, Gerry 40, 49, 80, 81–2 Colgan, Michael xviii, xxvi, 21, 24, 42, 189

240 Index Beckett, Samuel and 29–30 Beckett on Film project and 193 casting and 48–9 festivilization and 47 First Love and 190 Gate Beckett Festivals and 39–40, 146 international touring and 46 Juno and the Paycock and 48 Krapp’s Last Tape and 42 one-man shows and 28–9, 189–90 Rockaby and 49 Waiting for Godot and 30 Watt adaptation and 189 colonialism 111, 123, 126, 182–3 Come and Go (Beckett, Samuel) xvii, 43, 154 Barrington, Kathleen and 8 O’Neill, Maire and 8 Peacock Theatre and 4, 8, 17 Purcell, Deirdre and 8 Rosenstock, Gabriel and 133 Scaife, Sarah Jane and 21 translation and 133 comedy 97–8, 100–1 comic mediation 97–8 comic pairings 89–90, 101, 112, 142–3 Company SJ 119, 175–6 Connolly, Nora 79–81, 82–3, 84 copyright 199 Corcadorca Theatre Company 175 Cork 175 Corr, Andrea 48 Cosgrave, William 95 Cosgrove, Aedín 194 costume 80, 111–12, 114–15, 117–18, 153–4 Cotter, Sean 12, 14–15, 114 Coveney, Michael 49, 210 n.26 Coyle, Jane 63 Coyne, Sabina 69 Craig, Edward Gordon 109 Craig, George xxii

Cranham, Kenneth 48 Creed, Tom 189 Críoch-Chluiche (Beckett, Samuel) 130, 136 see also Endgame Crowley, Donncha 58 culture, festivilization of 46–7 Cummins, Ellie 80 Cure at Troy, The (Heaney, Seamus) 55 Cusack, Cyril xvii, xviii, 125–6 Damned to Fame (Knowlson, James) 91–2 dance 154–5, 200–1 Dance, Charles 48 Dancing at Lughnasa (Friel, Brian) 103 ‘Dante… Bruno. Vico..Joyce’ (Beckett, Samuel) 36 D’Arcy, Margareta 81 databases xxv Dead, The (Huston, John) 10, 18 Deirdre (Yeats, W. B.) 114 Deirdre of the Sorrows (Synge, John Millington) 140–1 Dennehy, Ned 58 Derrida, Jacques: ‘Law of Genre, The’ 199 Derrig, Thomas 95 ‘Des and Rosie’ 49 Design Council 110 destitution 89–90, 93–6, 97–8, 101–2, 111, 147 see also unemployment Devlin, Alan 26 ‘Difficult Birth: Easter 1998, A’ (Clarke, Gillian) 55 digital culture 193, 196, 198 Dimock, Wai Chh 198 Dinklage, Peter 48 directors 56–7 Donnelly, Donal 36, 111 Dowling, Joe 21 Down all the Days (Brown, Christy) 72

Index drama 197 drugs 158, 160, 165, 174, 175, 176–7 Druid Theatre Company xix, 137, 139–50 DruidSynge project xix Dublin 17, 37, 41, 72–4, 146, 147 accents/speech and 98–9, 100, 101, 102, 112, 145–6 Beckett in the City project and 158–61, 162–6, 175–82 drugs and 158, 160, 165, 174, 175, 176–7 homelessness and 159, 160, 161–2, 165, 176–7, 180–1 performances spaces and 160–1, 162–6, 172, 173–4, 175–83 street parades 172–3 Tangier Lane 182 unemployment and 94 Dublin Drama League 109 Dublin Theatre Festival 3–4, 25, 159 Dukes, Gerry 29 Dulac, Edmund 109 Dunne, John 77 Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi (Gems, Pam) 79 Dwyer, Michael 193 economy, the 90, 95–7, 110, 172, 175, 186 education, level of 98–100 Edwards, Hilton 68 Egan, Peter 190 Egoyan, Atom 194 Eh Joe (Beckett, Samuel) 6, 39, 41, 190, 194 Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, The (Marx, Karl) 211 n.6 Eleutheria (Beckett, Samuel) 30 Embers (Beckett, Samuel) 6–7, 34, 192, 194, 194f, 195 empathy 54–5


employment 93–4 see also unemployment Empty Space, The (Brook, Peter) 153 Enchanted Land, The (Fitzmaurice, George) 116 End of Day (MacGowran, Jack) 24, 186 Endgame (Beckett, Samuel) xxi, 19, 39, 41, 42–3, 192 Barnes, Ben and 19, 20 Bradley, David and 33 Carroll, Daphne and 32 Casson, Bronwen and 28 censorship and 64 Colgan, Michael and 49 ‘Des and Rosie’ and 49 Devlin, Alan and 26 Druid Theatre Company and 139, 145 festival productions 42 Flanagan, Pauline and 32 Forde, Seamus and 32 Glendining, David and 26 Golding, Bill and 32 Keogh, Des and 33, 49 Libera, Antoni and 32 Linehan, Rosaleen and 33, 49 Lynch, John and 26 McGovern, Barry and 19, 20, 24, 26, 27, 31, 32, 33 O’Neill, Chris and 26 Proctor, Colette and 26 Quigley, Godfrey and 19, 20–1, 27–8 Roe, Owen and 33 stage design 28, 116 Stanford, Alan and 32, 33 translation 130–2, 136 Walsh, Gerry and 26 Endwords (O’Neill, Chris) 23 Enfants du Paradis, Les (Carné, Marcel) 7 Enough (Beckett, Samuel) 189 Esslin, Martin 36, 101, 154

242 Index ‘Evening of Beckett Plays, Mimes and Extracts’ (MacGowran, Jack) 6 Everett, John 77–8 Fairleigh, John 57 Famine, the 111, 123 Farm (Wilfredd Theatre Company) 175 Farmer, Dónal 126–7 Feldman, Morton 35 Felton, Felix 23 feminism 78–84 Fenton, Leonard 36 Ferriter, Diarmaid 77, 132 festivals 46–7, 201 see also Beckett Festival (1991) Beckett Centenary Festival (2006) 39, 40–1, 42, 44, 48, 191 Beckett Pinter Mamet Festival (2010) 39, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49 Dublin Theatre Festival 3–4, 25, 159 Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival xxii, xxix–xxx, 149–50, 191, 201 Irish Universities Dramatic Association Festival 144 Yeats International Theatre Festival xviii, 291 festivilization of culture 46–7, 191 Fianna Fáil 95 Fiennes, Ralph 48, 190 Figgis, Danny 11 film see cinema Film (Beckett, Samuel) 4, 7 Fine Gael 95 Finegan, John 76–7 Finnegan, J. J. 16 Finnegans Wake (Joyce, James) 36 First Love (Beckett, Samuel) 49, 190 Fitz-Simon, Christopher 27, 115–18 Fitzgerald, Barry 101 Fitzgerald, Nigel 10, 63, 111

Fitzmaurice, George Enchanted Land, The 116 Piedish, The 116 Flanagan, Fionnuala 48 Flanagan, Pauline 32 Flannery, James 21 Flood, Kevin 27 Flynn, Kate 19 Flynn, Mannix 73f, 74, 76, 77 Liberty Suit, The 76 Fo, Dario 130 Focus Theatre 67–72 ‘Seasons of New Irish Writing’ 68 Footfalls (Beckett, Samuel) 19–20, 21, 43 Foras na Gaeilge 132 Forde, Seamus 32 Fouéré, Olwen 36 Four-in-One Players 26–7, 145 France 99 Frawley, Monica 106, 108, 116–18 Fricker, Karen 40 Friel, Brian 46, 130 Dancing at Lughnasa 103 Philadelphia, Here I come! 11 Translations xix From Morn to Midnight (Kaiser, George) 114 Frost, Everett 34, 194 Gael Linn 125 Gaelic see Irish language Gaeltachtaí 124 Galgut, Damon 157 Galileo (Brecht, Bertolt) 113 Galway Advertiser 82 Gambon, Michael 48 Gare St Lazare Players Ireland 119, 187–8 Access All Beckett 188 Garvin, Tom 95 Gate Beckett Festivals Beckett Centenary Festival (2006) 39, 40–1, 42, 44, 48, 191

Index Beckett Festival (1991) see Beckett Festival (1991) Beckett Pinter Mamet Festival (2010) 39, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49 Gate Theatre xviii, xxvi, 21, 68, 110, 191 see also Gate Beckett Festivals adaptations and 189–90, 194 ‘Beckett Brand’ and 74 festivilization and 191 First Love and 190 globalization and 42–4, 45–50 Hunt, Hugh and 109 international touring and 46 ‘Irish Play’ brand and 45–6, 50 Moiseiwitsch, Tanya and 109 place and 149 stage design and 109 Waiting for Godot and 30, 31–2, 108, 118 Watt adaptation and 25, 33, 39, 189–90, 190f Gems, Pam: Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi 79 gender 196–7 Genet, Jean: Maids, The 84 genre 186, 191–2, 195–202 Gheon, Henri 127 Gibson, Andrew 43 Gigli Concert, The (Murphy, Tom) 20 Glendining, David 26 global capitalism 45 globalization 39, 42–9, 170–2 Gníomh Gan Focail (Acte sans paroles) (Beckett, Samuel) 126–7 see also Act Without Words I Golden, Edward 8, 14, 15–16 Golding, Bill 32 Gontarski, S. E. 186, 197 Good Friday Agreement 55, 58 graffiti 163, 164 ‘Great Family of Man, The’ (Barthes, Roland) 93


Greenwich 161 Gregory, Lady 127, 140 Rising of the Moon, The 14, 15 Grene, Nicholas xvi Grenell, Aiden 34 Guinness Players 33 Guthrie, Tyrone 56 Hacklers of Cavan, the 34 Hall, Peter xx, 57 Halpin, Kris 53 Happy Days (Beckett, Samuel) xviii, 17, 34–5 Bruce, Brenda and 34 Burke-Kennedy, Declan 68, 69 censorship and 64 Druid Theatre Company and 139 Dublin Theatre Festival and 4 Focus Theatre production 67–72 Frawley, Monica and 108 Kean, Marie and 4, 17, 18 Knowlson, James and 71–2 Linehan, Rosaleen and 32, 49 McGovern, Barry and 32 Ó Cairealláin, Gearóid 130 O’Connell, Deirdre and 68, 69, 70, 71 Reisz, Karel and 32 reviews 18, 69, 71 Shaw, Fiona and xviii, 22 stage design and 108 Stanislavskian techniques and 72 television broadcast of 17–18 Tompa, Gabor and 58 translation 130 Vanĕk, Joe and 108 Warner, Deborah and 22 Whitehead, O. Z. 17 Yeats, W. B. and 15 Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival xxii, xxix–xxx, 149–50, 191, 201 Harding, Tim 142

244 Index Hardy, Oliver 13 Hart, Moss: Man Who Came to Dinner, The 127 Harvey (Chase, Mary) 127 Hawkins, Eric 154 Hawthorne, Denys 36 Healy, Dermot 34 Heaney, Seamus 123, 133 Cure at Troy, The 55 Hegarty Lovett, Judy 187, 188 Hello from Bertha (Williams, Tennessee) 84 Herbert, Jocelyn 213 n.6 Here All Night (Gare St Lazare Players Ireland) 187 Heron, Jonathan 202 Hickey, Tom 26, 31, 72 Hill, Conleth 53, 54, 58, 60–1 Hinds, Ciarán 27 Hobson, Harold 97 Hodgdon, Barbara 106 Holocaust, the 61 homelessness 159, 160, 161–2, 165, 176–7, 180–1 see also poverty Homer: Iliad 197–8 Hooper, John 95 How It Is (Beckett, Samuel) 187 Howard, Pamela 108 Hughes, Enda 193 Hunt, Hugh 11, 14–15, 109, 113, 114, 116 Hurt, John 42, 45, 48 Hynes, Garry xix, 141, 142, 147, 149 Hynes, Jerome 140–1 identity 74, 83, 123, 146, 171 see also national identity ‘Idle Youth Waiting for Godot?’ (‘Aknefton’) 94, 96, 97 Iliad (Homer) 197–8 I’ll Go On (McGovern, Barry) 29, 33, 186, 189, 190 accent and 145 Ballagh, Robert and 29, 189

Colgan, Michael and 21 Dukes, Gerry and 29 Gate Theatrea and 21, 23 Ó Briain, Colm and 23, 29, 189 stage design 29, 189 voice and 145 Importance of Being Earnest, The (Wilde, Oscar) 114 In Sand (Yeats, Jack B.) 7 In the Train (O’Connor, Frank) 14, 15 industrial unrest 77 inequality 77 International Theatre Seminar 5–6 internet dissemination 193 intersemiotic translation 200 Ionesco, Eugène 130 Bald Primadonna, The 58 Ireland xxiv–xxvi, 24–6, 138, 148–9, 159–60 see also Dublin; Northern Ireland abuse and 159 accents 98–9, 100, 101, 102, 112, 145–5 Cork 175 economy and 90, 95–7, 110, 172, 175, 186 feminism 78–84 oral storytelling and 186, 197 politics 94–6, 130 religion and 64, 181, 186 social unrest 76–7 urban/rural divide 144, 147 ‘Irish Beckett’ brand 78 see also ‘Beckett Brand’ Irish Civil War (1922–3) 94 Irish Congress of Trades Unions 77 Irish landmarks 41, 42, 43 Irish landscapes 41–3, 111, 117, 146, 150 see also place Irish language xviii–xx, 121–4, 130, 132–6 see also language Endgame and 130–2 Waiting for Godot and xviii–xix, xxv, 12, 34, 37, 41, 123, 125–9

Index ‘Irish Play’, the 44–6, 50, 60 Irish politics 94–6, 130 Irish Theatre Company (ITC) 27, 115–18, 139, 145 Irish Theatre Magazine 104 Irish Theatrescapes (Vanĕk, Joe) 103 Irish Times 94, 96–7 Irish Universities Dramatic Association Festival 144 Irvine, Will 52 itinerants 111, 115 John Bull’s Other Island (Shaw, George Bernard) 11, 116 Johnson, Fred 63–4 Johnston, Denis 114 Scythe and The Sunset, The 116 Jones, Marie 51–2 Stones in his Pockets 60 Jordan, Neil 193 Joyce, James 37 Dead, The 10 Finnegans Wake 36 Ulysses 25–6 Juno and the Paycock (O’Casey, Seán) 9, 48, 112 juvenile delinquents 94 ‘K’ 97–8 Kaiser, George: From Morn to Midnight 114 Kaufman, George S.: Man Who Came to Dinner, The 127 Kavanagh, Patrick xxi, 133 Tarry Flynn 10 Kean, Marie xvii, 18 Dead, The and 18 Happy Days and 4, 17, 18, 21 Rockaby and xvii, 18, 21, 28 Keane, J. B. 144 Keane, Raymond 161, 166, 166f, 175 Keaton, Buster 7–8, 91 Kelly, Barry 80


Kelly, Dermot 98 Kelly, Eamon 10–11 Kelly, Edmund 110 Kelly, Fiona 80 Kelly, Seamus 9, 14, 15, 114 Kennedy, Seán 41, 42–3, 146 Beckett and Ireland 122 Kenner, Hugh 13 Kenny, Tom 127, 128–9 Keogh, Des 33, 49 Khan, Akram 159 Kiberd, Declan 101 Kid, Le (Pelorson, Georges) 24 Kilroy, Thomas: Talbot’s Box 16–17 Kinevane, Pat 31 King, Adèle 49 Kirn, Walter 57 Knowlson, James 71–2 Damned to Fame 91–2 Krapp’s Last Tape (Beckett, Samuel) 16 Colgan, Michael and 42 festival performance 42, 45 Focus Theatre production 68 Golden, Edward and 14 Hurt, John and 42, 45 McGovern, Barry and 32 memory and xxiv–xxv O’Shaughnessy, Peter and 68 Peacock Theatre and 14 Purgatory and 15–16 reviews 14, 68 Rosenstock, Gabriel and 133–4 Scaife, Sarah Jane and 32 stage design 108 translation and 133–4 Kroetz, Franz Xaver: Request Programme 175 Laffan, Pat 8, 116 Lally, Mick 141, 148 language 37, 40, 44 see also accents; Irish language O’Casey, Seán and 100–1 Plough and the Stars, The and 101

246 Index Shadow of a Gunman, The and 100 Tompa, Gabor and 62–3 Waiting for Godot and xviii–xix, xxv, 12, 34, 37, 41, 63, 76, 90–1, 99–100, 102 Lantern Theatre 6 Laundry (ANU Productions) 174 Laurel, Stan 13 Lavery, Bryony: Origin of the Species 84 ‘Law of Genre, The’ (Derrida, Jacques) 199 le Brocquy, Louis 30, 108, 118 Lee, Gerry 191 Lee, J. J. 95 Lee, James: Act Without Words II and 156, 166–7 Leenane trlogy (McDonagh, Martin) xix Lemass, Sean 95 Lessness (Beckett, Samuel) 36 Leventhal, Con xxi Libera, Antoni 32 liberality 26 Liberty Suit, The (Sheridan, Peter/ Mannix, Flynn) 76 light 155, 157 lighting 114, 157, 164–5 Lindsay-Hogg, Michael 31 Linehan, Rosaleen 32, 33, 49 Lion, Eugene 12–14 Living Beckett: Centenary Readings and Walks (Balloonatics) 191 Living Theatre 173 Lloyd, David 43, 146 London 161–2 Lonergan, Patrick xxvi Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era 44, 45, 47, 48, 78 Lovett, Conor 31, 187 Lynch, John 26 Lyric Theatre 51, 52, 56

Mac Anna, Tomás 4–5, 7, 12, 112–13 Mac Liammóir, Micheál 68, 127 Mac Murchaidh, Ciarán 132 McBride, Ray 143, 144 McCabe, Vincent 19, 36 McCann, Donal xvii, 10, 11, 114 McCormick, F. J. 101 McCracken, Henry Joy 59 McDonagh, Martin: Leenane trilogy xix McGilligan, Patrick 95 McGinley, Séan 143 McGovern, Barry xvii, xxvi, 32, 36–7 All That Fall and 34 Beckett, Samuel and 29–30 ‘Beckett at 80’ 34 ‘Beckett in Paris’ 35 Capital of the Ruins, The and 35 Embers and 34 Endgame and 19, 20, 24, 26, 31, 32, 33 Happy Days and 32 I’ll Go On 21, 23, 145, 186, 189 Krapp’s Last Tape and 32 one-man shows and 21, 23, 28–9 radio and 34, 35 Waiting for Godot and 23, 27, 31–2, 40, 118 Watt adaptation and 33, 39, 189, 190f McGovern, Sam 31 MacGowran, Jack xvii, 5–7, 36, 145 Act Without Words I and 6, 16 Beginning to End 6–7, 24, 28–9, 186 Eh Joe and 6 Embers and 6–7 End of Day 24, 186 ‘Evening of Beckett Plays, Mimes and Extracts’ 6 McGuinness, Norah 108, 109, 114–15 McLucas, Cliff 158 McMullan, Anna 178, 184 McQuaid, John Charles 25, 95

Index McTighe, Trish 74, 180 Staging Beckett in Great Britain xxiii, xxv McWhinnie, Donald xvi–xvii, 23 Magee, Patrick xvii, 36, 186 Maguy Marin Dance Company 201 Maids, The (Genet, Jean) 84 malapropisms 100 Malone Dies (Beckett, Samuel) 25, 29, 145, 187, 189 Mamet, David 193 Man and Superman (Shaw, George Bernard) 9 Man Who Came to Dinner, The (Kaufman, George S./Hart, Moss) 127 Mandell, Alan 35 Manivelle, La (The Old Tune) (Pinget, Robert) 37 Marx, Karl: Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, The 211 n.6 Mason, Patrick 103, 116 Matalang (Beckett, Samuel) 133 see also Catastrophe Matless, David 143 May B (Maguy Marin Dance Company) 201 memory xxiv–xxv, 54, 57 ‘Mental Health’ 96–7 Merchant of Venice, The (Shakespeare, William) 175 Mercier, Vivian: Beckett/Beckett 122 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 153 Mileham, Mark 23 mime 154–5 Minghella, Anthony 193 Minogue, Kate 35 minorities 64 mise en scène 103, 188, 189 Moiseiwitsch, Tanya 14, 109 Molière 127 Molloy (Beckett, Samuel) 25, 29, 145, 187, 189 Molloy, John 13, 16–17


Molloy, M. J.: Wood of the Whispering 140 Moloney, Alan 193 Monahan, Pegg 34 Monto tetralogy (ANU Productions) 173–4 Moore, Carol 52 Morash, Christopher xv, 104 More Pricks Than Kicks (Beckett, Samuel) 25, 124 Morrison, Emily 78 Mouth on Fire xix, 133–5, 195 Murphy, Johnny 31, 40, 74, 78, 145, 147–8 Murphy, Judy 81, 82 Murphy, Tom 130, 147, 148–9 Gigli Concert, The 20 Too Late for Logic 116 Murray, Christopher xxiii, 12, 69–70 ‘Beckett productions in Ireland: A Survey’ 104, 114–15, 116–17 Murray, T. C. 144 music 35 music-hall theatre 91, 142, 144–5 ‘Myth of Sisyphus, The’ (Camus, Albert) 101–2 Nacht und Truäme (Beckett, Samuel) 21 national identity 74, 137–8, 147 see also identity Naughton, Lindie 145 Neeson, Liam 48 Netherlands, the 84 New York 162 Newman, Angela 8 Niedzialkowski, Stephan 154, 167 Night Must Fall (Williams, Emlyn) 127 Nixon, Cynthia 48 Nolan, Sean 96 non-places 170–2, 174, 179–84 Northern Ireland 31, 55, 58, 130 Belfast 55–6, 58, 59, 65, 129–30

248 Index ‘Troubles’, the 58, 130 Northern Star (Parker, Stewart) 59–60 Not I (Beckett, Samuel) xxiv, 19–20, 192, 193 nowhens 178, 183 Nowlan, David 76 Ó Briain, Colm 23, 29, 49, 189 Ó Briain, Liam xviii, xix, 126, 127, 128 O’Brien, Eoin 41–2 Beckett Country, The 146 O’Brien, Gerry 191 Ó Cairealláin, Gearóid 130–1 Ó Carra, Seán xviii, 127 O’Casey, Seán 91, 98, 100–1, 112 Juno and the Paycock 9, 48, 112 place and 137 Plough and the Stars, The 90, 101 Shadow of a Gunman, The 100 Silver Tassie, The 113 O’Connell, Deirdre 67–8, 69, 70, 71 O’Connor, Frank: In the Train 14, 15 O’Donoghue, Helen: Scene Change 104 O’Farrell, Maureen 11 Ó Gallachóir, Bríd 131, 134 O’Gorman, Siobhan 104 O’Hanrahan, Paul 191 O hAodha, Micheál 138, 204 n.6 O hAonghusa, Micheál 13 O’Hara, Joan 8 O’Hegarty, P. S. 100 O’Kelly, Donal 31 O’Neill, Aisling 74 O’Neill, Chris 23, 26, 74 Endwords 23 O’Neill, Eugene 127 O’Neill, Maire 8 O’Neill, Vincent 74, 76 O’Shaughnessy, Peter 68–9 O’Toole, Fintan 183–4 O’Toole, Peter xvii, 9–10, 20, 114

Odo, Maureen 154 Official Languages Act 2003, The 132 Oguri 200 Ohio Impromptu (Beckett, Samuel) 154 Olivier, Laurence 5 On Baile’s Strand (Yeats, W. B.) 115–17 one-man shows Gare St Lazare Ireland and 187 MacGowran, Jack and 6–7, 24, 28–9, 186 McCabe, Vincent and 36 McGovern, Barry and see I’ll Go On Only Jealousy of Emer, The (Yeats, W. B.) 114 Origin of the Species (Lavery, Bryony) 84 Orison (Arrabal, Fernando) 140 Oscar Productions 72–8 Oxford English Dictionary 196 Pan Pan Theatre Company xxv, xxviii, xxix, 119, 194–5 Parker, Stewart Northern Star 59–60 Pentecost 55 Pasello, Luisa 84 Pasello, Silvia 84 patriotism 49 peace agreements 130 Peacock Theatre xviii, 4–5 see also Abbey Theatre Act Without Words I and 16–17 Come and Go and 4, 8 Endgame and 19–21, 27 Film and 4 Happy Days and 17–18 International Theatre Seminar and 5–6 Kid, Le and 24 Krapp’s Last Tape and 14, 15–16 Play and 4, 8

Index Purgatory and 14, 15–16 That Time and 16, 17 Yeats International Theatre Festival and 21 Pelorson, Georges: Kid, El 24 Pentecost (Parker, Stewart) 55 performance historiography 105–7 performance spaces 160–9, 169, 170, 172–84 Peter, John 62, 63, 65 Phelan, Peggy 105 Unmarked 105 Phillip, Siân 48 physical theatre 154–5 Piece of Monologue, A (Beckett, Samuel) 36, 41, 72, 116, 187 Piedish, The (Fitzmaurice, George) 116 Pike Theatre xxv, 4, 110 Simpson, Alan and 110–11 Surprise, The and 110–11 Swift, Carolyn and 110 Waiting for Godot and xv, xx, xxi, xxv, 3, 10, 24, 41, 110–12, 138 Pinget, Robert xxii Manivelle, La (The Old Tune) 37 Pinter, Harold 36 Pirandello, Luigi 144 place 137–40, 146–50, 158 see also Irish landscapes; non–places Waiting for Godot and 138–44, 147 Play (Beckett, Samuel) xvii, 7–8, 154 Barnes, Ben and 19–20 Burke-Kennedy, Declan and 69 Burke-Kennedy, Mary Elizabeth and 69 Coyne, Sabina and 69 festival productions 43 Flynn, Kate and 19 Focus Theatre production 68–9 Laffan, Pat and 8 McCabe, Vincent and 19 Minghella, Anthony and 193


Newman, Angela and 8 O’Hara, Joan and 8 O’Shaughnessy, Peter and 68–9 Peacock Theatre and 4, 8 reviews 69 Toal, Maureen and 19 Playboy of the Western World, The (Synge, John Millington) 90 Playgroup 175 Plough and the Stars, The (O’Casey, Seán) 90, 101 Plunkett, Geraldine 34 PMLA 198 poetry 197 politics 94–6, 130 Potter, Maureen 48, 49 poverty 90, 95, 97, 102, 147, 176 see also destitution Proctor, Colette 26 Project Arts Centre 26, 145 proprioception 54 prose 197 performance and 35–6, 185–9, 190–1, 201–2 public space 160–4 Punchbag Theatre 78 Purcell, Deirdre 8 Purgatory (Yeats, W. B.) 14, 15–16, 117 Quad (Beckett, Samuel) 154, 194 Quare Fellow, The (Behan, Brendan) xvi Quigley, Godfrey 19, 20–1, 27–8 Quinn, Cathal 134, 194 Quinn, Gavin 194 race 155–6 radio 34, 35, 36 adaptations 194–5 Radley, Lynda: Berlin Love Tour 175 Rancière, Jacques 53 Rea, Stephen 41, 48, 60 realism 91

250 Index Reason, Matthew 54 Rebellion of 1798 59 recitation 188, 190 Redstone Protestant Cemetery 41 Reid, Alec 56, 69–70, 71 All I Can Manage, More Than I Could xvii, 138–9 Reisz, Karel 32 religion 64, 181, 186 Request Programme (Kroetz, Franz Xavier) 175 Return to Absence (Arcane Collective) 200–1 revues 91 Reynolds, Dee 54 Richards, Shaun 104 Richard’s Cork Leg (Behan, Brendan) 203 n.4 Ricketts, Charles 109 Riders to the Sea (Synge, John Millington) 111 Risen People, The (Plunkett, James) 76 Rising of the Moon, The (Gregory, Lady 14, 15 Roach, Joseph 216 n.13 Robinson, Lennox 114, 127, 144 Robinson, Mary 79 Rocabaí (Beckett, Samuel) 133, 134 see also Rockaby Roche, Anthony xv, 65, 113 Rockaby (Beckett, Samuel) Colgan, Michael and 48–9 Kean, Marie and xvii, 18, 21, 28 King, Adèle and 49 Ó Briain, Colm and 49 Potter, Maureen and 48–9 reviews 18, 49 Rosenstock, Gabriel and 133 translation and 133 Rocks, Seán 177 Roe, Owen 33, 35 Romania 57–8 Ronen, Ilan 126

Rosenstock, Gabriel 133–4 Rough for Radio I (Beckett, Samuel) 195 Rough for Radio II (Beckett, Samuel) 195 Rough for Theatre I (Beckett, Samuel) 133, 155, 162–5, 176, 181, 184 RTÉ Players 34 Rushe, Desmond 75, 143, 144–5 Russell, Willy 130 Ryan Report, the 159 St. Patrick Day parades 172–3 Samuel Beckett Bridge xxii Samuel Beckett Laboratory 202 Samuel Beckett Summer School 201 Samuel French Ltd 82, 83, 84 Scaife, Sarah Jane 21, 32, 119 Beckett in the City project 154–67, 175–6, 176–7, 179–81 Scene Change (O’Donoghue, Helen/ Vanĕk. Joe) 104 scenography see stage design Schneider, Rebecca xxiv, 106–7 Scott, Leslie 114 Scythe and The Sunset, The (Johnston, Denis) 116 seanchai 197 ‘Seasons of New Irish Writing’ (Focus Theatre) 68 set design see stage design Shadow of a Gunman, The (O’Casey, Seán) 100 Shakespeare, William 144, 197 Merchant of Venice, The 175 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A 133 Shaw, Fiona xviii, 22 Shaw, George Bernard 15, 133, 140 John Bull’s Other Island 11, 116 Man and Superman 9 Shea, Wendy 108 Sheridan, Jim 75 Sheridan, Michael 141 Sheridan, Peter 72, 74, 75, 77, 145

Index Break a Leg 75 Liberty Suit, The 76 Sierra, Martínez 127 Silver Tassie, The (O’Casey, Seán) 113 Simpson, Alan xv–xxii, 4, 11–12 Ag Fanacht le Godot and 12, 34 Beckett and Behan and a Theatre in Dublin xv, 90 Morash, Chris and xv Pike Theatre and 110 Richard’s Cork Leg and 203 n.4 Roche, Anthony and xv stage design and xx–xxi, 110–11 Waiting for Godot and xv–xviii, xx–xxi, xxv, 12, 34, 41, 63–4, 76, 90, 93, 97, 98–100, 101, 102, 110–12, 113, 127, 128–9 Sisson, Elaine 104 Smyth, Berni 82 social class see class social unrest 76–7 sonic geography 143 space 153–7, 160–1, 164 see also performance space; public space unsocial 169–70, 180 spatial overabundance 217 n.1 stage adaptations 194–5 stage design 103–4, 107–8 see also costume; lighting Abbey Theatre and 112–15 Ballagh, Robert and 29 Barlow, Alan and 113 Baugh, Christopher and 113 Bewick, Pauline and 110 Both, Andrei and 52, 61 Burgess, Mira and 110 Casson, Bronwen and 108 Casson, Bronwen and 28 Connolly, Nora and 80–1 Craig, Edward Gordon and 109 Dancing at Lughnasa and 103 documenting 103–7 Dublin Drama League and 109


Dulac, Edmund and 109 Endgame and 28 Frawley, Monica and 106, 108, 116–18 Happy Days and 108 Herbert, Jocelyn and 213 n.6 Howard, Pamela and 108 I’ll Go On and 29 Kelly, Edmund and 110 Le Brocquy, Louis and 108, 118 Mac Anna, Tomás and 113 McGuinness, Norah and 108 McGuinness, Norah and 108, 109, 114–15 On Baile’s Strand and 115–17 Pike Theatre and 110–12 Ricketts, Charles and 109 Shea, Wendy and 108 Simpson, Alan and 110–11 Travers–Smith, Dorothy and 109 Vanĕk, Joe and 103, 104, 108 Waiting for Godot and 52, 61–2, 80–1, 108, 110–11, 114–19, 143 Well of the Saints, The and 116–17 Yeats W. B. and 109 stage doors 177–9 Staging Beckett project xxiii, xxv, 107 Staging Beckett in Great Britain (Tucker, David/McTighe, Trish) xxiii, xxv Stanford, Alan 10, 31, 32, 33, 40 Stanislavskian techniques 69–72 Steinberg, Morleigh 200 Steward of Christendom, The (Barry, Sebastian) 10 Stirrings Still/Soubresauts (Beckett, Samuel) 219 n.8 Stones in his Pockets (Jones, Marie) 58, 60–1 Stoppard, Tom 140 street parades 172–3 Street Theatre 173 streets 169, 172–3

252 Index Stuart, Amanda 80 Styles, Willie 34 supermodernity 171, 179 Surprise, The (Chesterton, G. K.) 110–11 Swift, Carolyn xvi, xviii–xix, 63–4, 110, 111 Synge, John Millington 91–2, 127, 130, 149 Deirdre of the Sorrows 140–1 place and 137 Playboy of the Western World, The 90 Riders to the Sea 111 Well of the Saints, The 115–17 Taboo 78–84 Talawa Theatre Company 156 Talbot’s Box (Kilroy, Thomas) 16–17 Tangier Lane 182–3 Tangiers 182 Tarry Flynn (Kavanagh, Patrick) 10 Teacht is Imeacht (Beckett, Samuel) 133 see also Come and Go Teddy Boys 94 Téip Dheireanach Krapp (Beckett, Samuel) 133–4 see also Krapp’s Last Tape That Time (Beckett, Samuel) xxiv, 16, 17, 41 theatre 90 commerce and 47 festivilization and 47 globalization and 39, 42–8 live experience of 157 music-hall theatre 91, 142, 144–5 patrons 48 physical theatre 154–5 realism and 91 Street Theatre 173 studying 90 variety and 91 Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era

(Lonergan, Patrick) 44, 45, 47, 48, 78 theatre companies xxii, 25 Aisling Ghéar xix, 130, 134 Aisteoirí Aon Dráma 130–1 An Damer 125 ANU Productions 173–4 Balloonatics theatre company 191 Barrabas the Company 175 Bread and Puppet Theater 173 Charabanc Theatre Company 52 Company SJ 119, 175–6 Corcadorca Theatre Company 175 Druid Theatre Company xix, 137 Four-in-One Players 26–7, 145 Gare St Lazare Players Ireland 119, 187–8 Irish Theatre Company (ITC) 27, 115–18, 139, 145 Living Theatre 173 Mouth on Fire xix, 133–5, 195 Oscar Productions 72–8 Pan Pan Theatre Company 119, 194–5 Playgroup 175 Taboo 78–84 Talawa Theatre Company 156 Welfare State 173 Wilfredd Theatre Company 175 women’s theatre groups 83–4 see also Taboo Theatre Ireland 104 Theatre of the Absurd 101 theatres 169–70, 173 see also Abbey Theatre; Gate Theatre; Peacock Theatre; Pike Theatre An Taibhdhearc 127 Focus Theatre 67–8 Lantern Theatre 6 Lyric Theatre 51, 52, 56 Punchbag Theatre 78 stage doors and 177–9 Therborn, Göran 206 n.2

Index Thirteen (ANU Productions) 174 Three Novels (Beckett, Samuel) 200 Tíre, Siamsa: What the Folk 175 Toal, Maureen 19 Tóibín, Colm 143 Tompa, Gabor 51, 57–9, 61, 62–3, 64 Toneelschuur, De Haarlemse 83–4 Too Late for Logic (Murphy, Tom) 116 touring xviii, 46 Beckett festival productions and 44–5 tragedy 98, 100 translation xviii–xx, 121, 135–6 Act Without Words and 126–7 Catastrophe and 133 Come and Go and 133 Endgame and 130–2 Happy Days and 130 intersemiotic 200 Krapp’s Last Tape and 133–4 Rockaby and 133, 134 Rough for Theatre I and 133 Waiting for Godot and xviii–xix, xxv, 12, 34, 37, 41, 123, 125–9 Translations (Friel, Brian) xix Tráth dár Saol (Beckett, Samuel) 130 see also Happy Days Travers-Smith, Dorothy 109 Trinity College, Dublin 201 ‘Troubles’, the 58, 130 Tucker, David: Staging Beckett in Great Britain xxiii, xxv Tynan, Kenneth 97 ‘Tyranny in Beckett’ (Mouth on Fire) 195 UCD Dramsoc 23, 24 Ulysses (Joyce, James) 25–6 unemployment 93–7, 110 universality 154, 157 Unmarked (Phelan, Peggy) 105 Unnameable, The (Beckett, Samuel) 29, 145, 189


unsocial space 169–70, 180 urbanization 170–1 see also city, the Valera, Eamon de 95 Vanĕk, Joe 103, 108, 110 Irish Theatrescapes 104 Scene Change 104 variety theatre 91 voices 143 see also accents Waiting for Godot (Beckett, Samuel) xv, xviii, xxi, 43 Abbey Theatre and 3, 4, 8–14, 25, 112–15 accents/speech and 63, 78, 98–9, 112, 138, 141–3, 145, 147–8 ‘Aknefton’ and 94, 96 Albery, Donald and 125 all black cast 157 all-female 34, 78–84 Asmus, Walter and 30, 31, 108, 193 audiences and 56, 57 Barnes, Ben and 19, 27, 115 Bateson, Timothy and 23 Beckett on Film project and 193 Behan, Brendan and xxi bilingual 125–9 Blin, Roger and 92 Both, Andrei and 52, 61 Brennan, Stephen and 31, 40 Brogan, Liz and 80 Burgess, Mira and 110 Byrne, Austin and 98 Caffrey, Peter and 36 Campion, Sean and 53, 58, 60, 65 Cassidy, Máirín and 23 Cave, Des and 11 Chan, Paul and 157 Clarke, Gillian and 55 class and 92–3, 96 Colgan, Michael and 30 Connolly, Nora and 79–81, 82–3 costume and 80, 111–12, 114–15, 117–18

254 Index Cotter, Sean and 12, 114 Crowley, Donncha and 58 Cummins, Ellie and 80 Cusack, Cyril and 125–6 Dennehy, Ned and 58 destitution and 89, 93, 97, 102 Donnelly, Donal and 111 dramatic settings and 44 Druid Theatre Company production xix, 137, 139–44, 147–8 Dunne, John and 77 employment and 93–4 Everett, John and 77–8 Felton, Felix and 23 festival productions 31, 40 Figgis, Danny and 11 Fitz-Simon, Christopher and 27 Fitzgerald, Nigel and 10, 63, 111 Flood, Kevin and 27 Flynn, Mannix 73f, 74, 76, 77 Four-in-One Players and 26–7, 145 Frawley, Monica and 116–18 Galgut, Damon and 157 Gare St Lazare Players Ireland and 187 Gate Theatre and 30, 31–2, 108, 118 Guinness Players and 33 Hacklers of Cavan and 34 Hall, Peter and xx Healy, Dermot and 34 Hickey, Tom and 26, 31, 72 Hill, Conleth and 53, 58, 60, 65 Hinds, Ciarán and 27 history and 93 Holocaust and the 61 Hynes, Garry and xix, 141, 142, 147 indigence and 90, 92–3 Irish language/Gaelic and xviii–xix, xxv, 12, 34, 37, 41, 123, 125–9

Irish Theatre Company (ITC) production 115–18, 139, 145 Johnson, Fred and 63–4 Kavanagh, Patrick and xxi Kelly, Barry and 80 Kelly, Dermot and 98 Kelly, Eamon and 10–11 Kelly, Edmund and 110 Kelly, Fiona and 80 Kenner, Hugh and 13 Kenny, Tom and 127, 128–9 Kinevane, Pat and 31 Knowlson, James and 92 Lally, Mick and 141, 148 language and xviii–xix, xxv, 12, 34, 37, 41, 63, 76, 90–1, 99–100, 102, 123, 125–9 Laurel and Hardy and 13 le Brocquy, Louis and 30, 108, 118 Leventhal, Con and xxi Lindsay-Hogg, Michael and 31 Lion, Eugene and 12–14 Lovett, Conor and 31 Lyric Theatre 1975 production 51–2, 58, 65 Lyric Theatre 1999 production 52–3, 58–61, 64–5 McBride, Ray and 143, 144 McCann, Donal and xvii, 10, 11, 25, 114 McGinley, Séan and 143 McGovern, Barry and 23, 27, 31–2, 40, 118 McGovern, Sam and 31 McGuinness, Norah and 114–15 McWhinnie, Donald and 23 Mileham, Mark and 23 Minogue, Kate and 35 Molloy, John and 13 Murphy, Johnny and 31, 40, 74, 78, 145, 147–8 music-hall influence and 91 Ó Briain, Colm and 23

Index Ó Briain, Liam and 127, 128 Ó Carra, Seán and 127 O hAonghusa, Micheál and 13, 138 O’Kelly, Donal and 31 O’Neill, Aisling and 74 O’Neill, Chris and 23, 26, 74 O’Neill, Vincent and 74, 76 O’Toole, Peter and xvii, 9–10, 20, 25, 114 Oscar Productions and 72–8 Pasello, Luisa and 84 Pasello, Silvia and 84 Pike Theatre production xvi, xx, xxi, xxv, 3, 10, 24, 41, 74, 76, 110–12, 138 place and 138–44, 147–8, 149 political readings 126 Purgatory and 15 Reid, Alec and 56 reviews xxi, 9, 11, 12, 60, 62, 63, 65, 75–6, 80, 81–2, 97, 114–15, 141–5 Roach, Joseph 216 n.13 Ronen, Ilan and 126 Sheridan, Peter and 72, 74, 75, 77, 145 Simpson, Alan and xv–xviii, xx–xxi, 12, 34, 41, 63–4, 76, 90, 93, 97, 98–100, 101, 102, 110–12, 127, 128–9 Smyth, Berni 82 sonic geography and 143 stage design and xx–xxi, 52, 61–2, 80–1, 110–11, 114–19, 143 Stanford, Alan and 10, 31, 40 Stuart, Amanda and 80 Taboo production 78–84 television productions of 23, 192 Tompa, Gabor and 51, 58–9, 61, 62–3, 64 tramps and 89–93, 97–100, 111–12 translation and xviii–xix, 34, 123, 125–9


UCD Dramsoc production 23, 33 unemployment and 94 Woodthorpe, Peter and 23 Walsh, Gerry 26 Warner, Deborah xviii, 22 Warrilow, David 36 Watt (Beckett, Samuel) 25, 33, 39, 189–90, 190f Way Out West (Horne, James W.) 13 Welch, Robert 114 Welfare State 173 Well of the Saints, The (Synge, John Millington) 115–17 What the Folk (Tíre, Siamsa) 175 What Where (Beckett, Samuel) 21, 154, 192 Whitaker, T. K. 95 Whitehead, O. Z. 17 Whitelaw, Billie 34, 36 Wicklow 41 Wikipedia 196 Wilde, Oscar 140 Wilfredd Theatre Company 175 Williams, Emlyn: Night Must Fall 127 Williams, Tennessee: Hello from Bertha 84 Williamson, Nicol 36 Wilton, Penelope 48 Wolf, Matt 40 women’s theatre groups 83–4 see also Taboo Wood of the Whispering (Molloy, M. J.) 140 Woodthorpe, Peter 23 Words and Music (Beckett, Samuel) 35 Worth, Katharine xxii Yeats, Jack B.: In Sand 7 Yeats, W. B. 15, 109, 130, 133 At the Hawk’s Well 15 Deirdre 114 On Baile’s Strand 115–17

256 Index Only Jealousy of Emer, The 114 place and 137 Purgatory 14, 15, 16, 117

Yeats International Theatre Festival xviii, 21 Young, Jordan R. 6, 9