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Incapable of keeping silent - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Incapable of keeping silent
Beckett Shorts
ADC Theatre, 11pm, Tuesday 7th March

I've found that when going to the theatre to see plays by Samuel Beckett, everything seems to add to the Beckett experience: the darkness, the queue, the snatches of overheard halfsensical conversation, the empty seats to one's left or right. One's life becomes, albeit temporarily, a Beckett play; there is nothing to be done but sit and watch the events (their events, their lives, not ours, no) unfold. Or the lack of events. Which may, in the end, be the same thing.

I could also claim that this review is being posted a month late for suitably Beckettian reasons: that it, like everything else in life, has been subject to the countless pointless delays that slowly grind down our motivation; that in typing and retyping the words I've lost faith in their ability to mean anything. Or perhaps I could claim that it doesn't matter; that a day late, a month late, a lifetime late, is all the same thing; that in the face of certain death, the difference between one step and three steps to the scaffold is an absurd distinction to be making.

I suspect you'd rather I just got on with it, though.

The programme promised an impressive selection -- eight plays for £4:

Breath
Catastrophe
Footfalls
Ohio Impromptu
Rough for Theatre I
Act Without Words I
Rockaby
What Where

Of course, if one thought of it as paying by the word one might have felt somewhat cheated given that two of the plays have no words at all (one, Breath, doesn't even have any characters). Beckett's relationship with words has always seemed, to me, to be a love-hate one; there seems to be little or no middle-ground between babbling, eddying monologues (May in Footfalls, the speaker in Rockaby) or bombastic blusterings (A in Rough for Theatre I), and minimalist, stylised, artificial utterances in which every sentence seems to be given grudgingly (May's mother in Footfalls, and -- even more extremely so -- What Where's cast of ciphers).

If Beckett's representations of human interaction were photographs, they would either be an out-of-focus blur or such an extreme close-up that the object would be barely identifiable. They distort to grotesqueness, they reduce to bare outlines; and the resulting dialogue and direction is hard to carry off without falling into unintentional farce (though farce is sometimes intended) or wandering into woodenness. So how well did they do? On the whole, cast and crew gave confident performances: particularly notable were Rockaby, which brought out the hidden (and hideous) music in its protagonist's madness, the shape and rhythm of the twisted thoughts; and Rough for Theatre I, where the extended vignette was played for all it was worth, with all the humour and the horror of the human condition brilliantly brought out.

There may seem no point in recommending a performance which is no longer being performed; but what could be more Beckettian? Ah yes: just as I'm searching for the bon mot, the power goes out all over the building. The light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

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Comments
panzerpenguin From: panzerpenguin Date: April 7th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would have loved to have experienced this - Beckett's shorts made a big impact on me when I read them at Oxford, especially the horrid mechanistic perfection of Breath.
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