By John Fletcher

ISBN-10: 0571318878

ISBN-13: 9780571318872

In About Beckett Emeritus Professor John Fletcher has compiled a radical and obtainable quantity that explains why Beckett's paintings is so major and enduring. Professor Fletcher first met Beckett in 1961 and his booklet is crammed not just with insights into the paintings but additionally interviews with Beckett and first-hand tales and observations via those that helped to place his paintings at the level, together with Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Roger Blin, Peter corridor, Max Wall and George Devine. As an advent to Beckett and his paintings, Professor Fletcher's ebook is incomparable.

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In 1988, for instance, Mike Nichols (better known as the director of such films as The Graduate and Catch-22) put on a production of Waiting for Godot in New York in which he not only encouraged the actors to ad-lib, but even got Vladimir to ask someone in the audience the time, and directed Estragon to borrow a programme during Lucky’s speech, as if to check the actor’s name. It is clear that these and other features can, in default of a single and consistent aesthetic, be seen as helping to make up the Modernist synthesis.

VLADIMIR I’ve been better entertained. [Silence. ] (CDW, p. 38) In spite of this tendency to lapse into wordlessness, Beckett’s characters are very literate. The speakers know their classics, and quote from them liberally (Estragon from Shelley’s poem ‘To the Moon’, Winnie of Happy Days – with a fine sense of irony – from Romeo and Juliet, while Hamm in Endgame sardonically distorts Baudelaire’s sublime line about the fall of night as the evening of his own life draws in). The inarticulacy, in other words, is in the medium as much as it is part of the message.

In this play a single character is doubled, then trebled, by the use of a timely mechanical invention, the magnetic tape recorder, thus making possible a dialogue between an old man and his middle-aged earlier self, via pre-recorded tape, and their shared jokes about the young man they both once were. The technical innovation made possible the frame that keeps painful real-life experience at the necessary emotional distance, so that few sensations are more poignant in the modern theatre than the sight of that dirty, drink-sodden old wreck listening forlornly to his earlier self asking rhetorically on the tape, ‘What remains of all that misery?

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About Beckett. The Playwright and the Work by John Fletcher

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