The Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction

By Enoch Brater | Go to book overview

3
The Play of Language

In 1981 Alan Schneider traveled to London with Danny Labeille to rehearse Billie Whitelaw in her dual role as Woman and Voice for a new play called Rockaby. He faced an impossible problem: how to make a complete evening of theater out of a technically complex drama whose performance time was to run slightly less than fifteen minutes. Beckett's other play that dates from the same period, Ohio Impromptu, was clearly not a practical option for the kind of one-woman show the director had in mind. The evocation of this stage image was conceived for two seated male figures and required wigs, costume, makeup, and posture "as alike in appearance as possible." 1 That piece had in any case been promised to Stan Gontarski for the international Beckett symposium he was then organizing at the Ohio State University in Columbus. The solution Schneider came upon was ambitious but imperfect: with the playwright's reluctant consent, law would offer a staged reading of the short story Enough2 as opener and preview. Then, after a longer than usual intermission allowing the actress sufficient time to get into costume and character, Rockaby might begin. The double bill of Rockaby preceded by Enough had its world premiere at the Center Theatre in Buffalo, New York on April 8, 1981, and was later seen at the National Theatre in London and at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in New York. 3

For readers familiar with Beckett's short story, originally written in 1965 as Assez and published in the author's English translation two years later, a staged reading of Enough might not have seemed an inappropriate choice. Several critics commenting on this work assume its narrator to be female, and Schneider certainly needed a script compatible with the possible range of a woman's voice in live performance. Billie Whitelaw's commanding stage presence gave a decidedly feminine perspective to the monologue, but at several points her voice -- and especially her body -- seemed to be playing against the text:

We turn over as one man when he manifests the desire. I can feel him at night pressed against me with all his twisted length. It was less a matter

-58-

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The Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Still Beckett 3
  • 2 - Acts of Enunciation 14
  • 3 - The Play of Language 58
  • 4 - The Performative Voice 90
  • 5 - Trios and Trilogies 106
  • 6 - Posthumous Voices and More Stirrings Still 145
  • 7 - Dire Comments on Comment Dire 164
  • Notes 175
  • Selected Bibliography 209
  • Index 219
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