“In July 2012, at the performance workshop of the second Samuel Beckett Summer School, I sat in the Players Theatre and watched Rosemary Pountney (1937-2016) try to walk in Footfalls in precisely the way that Samuel Beckett had showed her. Though the costume she wore was the original dress and hardly the worse for wear, with time her body had moved on to a different style of movement, with a different level of control, and to take each required step in the way her body once knew, for the full duration of the piece, was no longer within her capacity.
Watching her move, and then watching as the lights moved across the stage where her footfalls would have once been, what I thought about acting and accessibility changed forever. Watching this performing body with the genuine, inimitable traces of age, I felt the ghostly resonances of the text in a completely new way. That day I traded my old answers for new questions: how could anyone say to Rosemary that she should no longer communicate her embodied knowledge, merely because it might have migrated from an earlier authorial ideal? And when was it ever ideal in the first place? What would a “perfect” performance even mean in the context of Beckett, that poet of failure? Instead of demanding sameness in our theatre, what can we learn from difference?” — Nicholas Johnson
Public Panel and Conversation, Wednesday 1 August 2018, 11am-1pm
“Samuel Beckett wrote and reflected constantly about the nature and meaning of embodiment, and as a result he continues to be an important touchstone in the growing field of Disability Studies. Researchers from both English and Creative Arts backgrounds have a growing interest in exploring how diverse physical, sensorial, developmental and psychological abilities manifest themselves in literature and in performance, and Beckett’s work provides many examples in terms of both practice and theory.
The Samuel Beckett Summer School, celebrating its eighth year of working at the cutting edge of new discourses in Beckett Studies, will offer a panel discussion and “long table” event on the topic of Beckett and Disability as its traditional Wednesday morning “plenary” discussion. Chaired by a researcher focusing in this area, Siobhán Purcell (NUI Galway), the panel will discuss a wide range of issues, including the representation of disability/ability in Beckett’s literature, as well as the theatre contexts in which Beckett’s work has been engaged by neurodiverse performers. The recent work of Touretteshero, especially their production of Not I in London, will be discussed by Jonathan Heron (University of Warwick). Other panelists, including Julie Bates (TCD, English) and Declan Reilly (TCD, Disability Service) will speak to the implications of accessibility and neurodiversity in education, policy, and philosophical landscapes.
The panel will run from 11 AM to approximately noon, and after a short break, the audience will be invited to contribute with a structured but open discussion until 1 PM. The event will be open to the public, accessible, and free of charge (but ticketed).”
As Marek Kedzierski plans another multidisciplinary and international celebration of Beckett, the SBSS asked him about his hugely ambitious and successful 2017 fail.better:beckett@111, and to find out what he has in mind for his new venture.
Conor Carville discusses the role of the Reading archives in the research of his most recent book, Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts: “The magnificent collection of Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts, notebooks, letters and other material held here at Reading was fundamental to the research for my new book Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts, which has just come out from Cambridge University Press.”
“A novel by Samuel Beckett has been adapted for the stage for the first time by a University of Reading student.
Judy Hegarty-Lovett, a PhD student in Film, Theatre and Television (FTT) and an established theatre practitioner, drew on the university’s world-leading Samuel Beckett Collection to influence her direction of How It Is.
The play opened in Cork, Ireland, in February and has just finished a run at The Print Room in Notting Hill, London.”
Critics described the production of How It Is as a ‘mesmerising adaptation’ and ‘ambitious’ and ‘ingenious’.”
“On a website ‘filled with the detritus and ephemera of great artists’ (the kind of place you can’t quite summon how you found afterwards and have trouble locating again, as though you dreamt it) there’s a wonderful hunk of little-heard pieces for radio, written by Samuel Beckett. Among them is a 1957 BBC recording of From An Abandoned Work – a monologue (that started in 1954 as a bit of prose) delivered by an old man remembering his youth. It’s unbelievably well acted, by the Armagh-born Patrick Magee, a presence so full of strangeness and charisma and difference and power, the whole thing made me feel like I’d been blindfolded.”
In an interview published by Frieze, Judith Wilkinson talks to the acclaimed polymath, artist, and author who is celebrating his 90th year. Wilkinson’s forthcoming book, Samuel Beckett: Contemporary Artist (Bloomsbury 2018) examines Beckett as a practicing artist working in sound, moving-image, performance and installation art. The interview touches upon the correspondence and influence between O’Doherty and Beckett.
Beckett Chamber Music Series explores the connection between words and music – thematically, expressively, temporally and spatially. The Series is inspired by Samuel Beckett’s reduction of artistic expression into a medium which blurs the line between words and music.
The 2018 Series brings together Ireland’s finest musicians, collaborating with renowned Beckett actors Barry McGovern and Stephen Brennan, for intensive artistic discovery, to be shared with audiences in three themed concerts in the dramatic yet intimate Boys School at Smock Alley Theatre on the quays in Dublin city centre between 24 and 30 June.
The Series culminates in a concert performance of Samuel Beckett’s radio play Words and Music with Morton Feldman’s 1987 score. The performance features Barry McGovern as Words/Joe, Stephen Brennan as Croak and Beckett Chamber Music Series musicians in the role on Music/Bob. The performance is directed by Everett Frost, who produced and directed the award-winning American national broadcast premieres of Beckett’s five completed radio plays. Preceding Beckett’s radio play are performances of Edgard Varèse Density 21.5 for solo flute and chamber works by Morton Feldman including Vertical Thoughts II and Four Instruments. When discussing the play with academic, Katherine Worth, Beckett made the perhaps surprising comment, “Music always wins”.
Authorised Beckett biographer James Knowlson shares previously unpublished insights into Beckett’s most famous play; Michael Coffey reviews two distinctive Beckett productions in New York City; Gabriel Quigley sits down with the artistic director of Company SJ, Sarah Jane Scaife; Rhys Tranter asks Beckett scholar Paul Stewart about his decision to appear in a production of Krapp’s Last Tape; and much more