Proof that misery loves company

Three of Samuel Beckett’s short plays to run at Everyman, says Colette Sheridan

THREE short plays by Samuel Beckett, produced by the London-based Godot Company, will be performed at Cork’s Everyman Theatre as part of a national tour.

Peter Pacey, who stars in two of the plays, says the company, founded by Beckett’s friend and publisher, John Calder, has been producing Beckett for 10 years now and praises the reception the playwright’s works get in his native country. “Coming to Ireland is the jolliest part of the calendar for me,” he says.

Pacey, who has directed Waiting for Godot for the Godot Company, says the company’s unique selling point is that they rehearse two or three casts at the same time. “It’s a difficult thing to do but the idea is that we can confidently go ahead and book a tour months into the future and we know that one way or another, we can cover it. It’s a very practical idea.”

Beckett x 3 features Eh Joe, The Old Tune and Footfalls. The other actors involved are Oengus MacNamara and Colette Kelly.

As Pacey says, the plays are short. “Waiting for Godot is a full blown play but Beckett didn’t write many full scale plays. Mostly, he was content with shorter pieces, some of which are in the nature of installations. So there’s a different aesthetic going on compared to normal drama.”

The Old Tune is a free translation by Beckett of French modernist writer, Robert Pinger’s play, La Manivelle (The Crank). Beckett has transformed Pinger’s Parisian characters into Dubliners called Cream and Gorman. It’s about two old soldiers who meet on a street corner and talk about the past. However, their memories about people and places often differ.

Beckett was an astute chronicler of people on the margins of society. “Most artists feel themselves to be on the margins and Beckett certainly was on the margins himself until he was in his forties. That was his experience and that’s what he wrote about.”

The play opens with Gorman, an organ grinder, struggling with his instrument. Cream, an old friend, appears on the scene. “The two men are like slightly faulty machines themselves. While they interact with each other, there are sudden unnatural silences that put the focus on the strangeness of watching two human beings in a kind of fish bowl,” says Pacey.

Eh Joe was originally written for television. Sitting on his bed, Joe hears the voice of his old love berating him for past misdeeds. On the surface, he is like many of Beckett’s lonely old men. But many of these characters avoided humanity, while Joe has used and abused people, particularly women. “If you abuse people, they don’t tend to hang around and so, Joe ends up lonely and beset by a guilty conscience,” says Pacey.

Footfalls is about a woman called May who walks backwards and forward while her elderly mother, in bed above the room, hears her and speaks to her. The question posed is whether May is a ghost.

Pacey believes a proper drama should be a collaboration. “It cannot be foretold by the director or the actors. You can’t know what’s going to emerge at the end of it.”

Also film and TV actor, Pacey says theatre is his favourite medium. Acting ought to be fun, he says. “If you don’t have fun during rehearsals, then what you’re doing is crap. Acting is not called ‘playing’ for nothing.”

*Beckett x 3 is at Cork’s Everyman Theatre from Feb 11-13.

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