Wednesday 08 January 2003

Beckett Bonanza

How magical is this?

Waiting for Godot
Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Cast: Barry McGovern, Johnny Murphy, Stephen Brennan, Alan Stafford

Director: Conor McPherson
Cast: Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Charles Simon, Jean Anderson

Not I
Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Julianne Moore

Krapp’s Last Tape
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: John Hurt

Director: Anthony Minghella
Cast: Alan Rickman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Juliet Stevenson

Director: David Mamet
Cast: John Gielgud, Harold Pinter, Rebecca Pidgeon

Ohio Impromptu
Director: Charles Sturridge
Cast: Jeremy Irons

Director: Richard Eyre
Cast: Penelope Wilton

And that’s less than half. From the 19th of January to the 8th of February SBS will be screening filmed versions of all 19 of Samuel Beckett’s plays: “19 texts, 19 directors, 10 hours, 23 minutes and seven seconds of film.” The project—conceived by Michael Colgan, Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre in Dublin—took over a year to photograph.

Each of the 19 films’ directors chose the play they wished to direct, and hand selected the cast they wished to work with. They were not allowed to change any of the text and they had to adhere to Beckett’s specific directions for each work.

Is it OK to love Beckett but hate going to the theater? Though Waiting for Godot and Endgame are currently playing here as part of the Sydney Festival, I wouldn’t dream of going. Two things irritate me about live theatrical performances:

  • the actors try too hard (“Look at me! Aren’t I clever? I’m acting!”)
  • the audience is so unpleasantly self-congratulatory (“Look at us! Aren’t we sensitive? We’re at the theater!)

For a misanthrope such as myself, Beckett On Film is perfect. Great actors—forced to tone down their performances for the camera—and an audience of one.

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I saw part of the Waiting for Godot bit of this (they pronounced it "Goddo" like Gummo or Harpo) and liked it! I'll keep an eye out for the rest of the series.

Posted by Anita Rowland on 9 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This is an amazing series -- it's been out on DVD here in the USA for those of us without the SBS. Anyone who cares about literature or humans (take your pick) should see as many of these as possible. You do risk fallling into long, moody silences for several days afterwards.

It was also heartening to read that someone who's obviously more cultured than I shares my aversion for live theater. Until now, it was my own, guilty secret. I broke my rule to attend A Christmas Carol and was thoroughly amazed all over again at the grimacing, exagerrated egoistic posturing. And that was just the audience. I have seen great actors on several stages in New York, London, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and nearly every time found the performances to be unbearably stylized in a pseudo-naturalistic way. My own theater going has ground to a stop. I love reading plays, though, which is why I went so often, and why it took so long to admit to my reaction to seeing what happened on stage.

Posted by tim roessler on 9 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Definitely one to watch! Thanks for the pointer - I've given up on summer TV so much that I'd probably have missed this.

By the way, 'theater' rather than 'theatre'? No criticism, I'm just interested to know whether that's a deliberate choice? Is there a standard dictionary for 'Web' English? Should there be? Why bother maintaining our minority Britisisms?

Sorry, really should get round to starting a weblog...

Posted by stuandgravy on 9 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Gee, Anita, down here we've always pronounced it "Goddo" (like Gummo). But now you mention it I recall that my American friends pronounce it "Godoh" (with the emphasis on the second syllable). Where do you get that from? Didn't you guys study French in high school?

Put the shoe on the other foot, Tim. I heaved a sigh of relief when I read your comment because I've always felt secretly embarrassed that I didn't care for live theater, when people who were clearly more cultured than I -- to borrow your phrase, though I don't think it applies to me -- love going to the theater.

I do still go occasionally, though, if either the playwright or the subject of the play outweighs my distaste for the "grimacing, exagerrated egoistic posturing" that takes place on both sides of the footlights. For example, not long ago I saw (and enjoyed) Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and a performance of Pinter's The Homecoming from many years ago remains fresh in my mind.

Hamilton, I guess there are a couple of reasons I use American spelling: I prefer the "look" of words spelled that way ("center", "recognize") and I'm also following the "rule" of writing for the majority of one's audience (which my server logs indicate is in North America).

Posted by Jonathon on 9 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Only you Jonathon can write a post about Beckett, followed by a post that contains farts.

I couldn't get away with that. Well, I _could_, but not with your style and, urh, ~panache~.

Posted by Burningbird on 9 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Sounds just wonderful. I'll have to check out the availability of DVD's, and I think I'll let Burningbird's comment pass without comment.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 10 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This is what I wrote to all my colleagues at work and friends to stay tuned to SBS....

Hi all,

If you want to see some decent television this weekend (and beyond) then check out The Samuel Beckett stuff that's coming up on SBS starting this Sunday.
I think most of his works have been put to film - so SBS are dicing with some great work - 19 of his plays.

The Irish writer and playwright died back in 1989, and he left behind a strange yet absorbing mixture of themes relating to - waiting, silence, pointlessness, speculation about existence, and why is it we have to have a name for everything?

Check out the experimentation on many of these themes (and more) - and if they show a short piece called BREATH, it may sum up your views about Beckett, a load of rubbish! I think he'd probably have liked that opinion.

beckett the devil you know.

don't miss....
John Rossi.

Posted by John Rossi on 17 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

John, I zipped down to K-Mart today and picked up 36 hours of blank VHS tapes. SBS is, without a doubt, the best television network in the world.

Posted by Jonathon on 17 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour