Beckett Night

Beckett Night

BBC Radio 3

As part of the celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and Nobel Laureate, Samuel Beckett (born 13th April 1906) Radio 3 broadcasts new productions of "Krapp's Last Tape" and "Embers". As part of the evening Stephen Rea, who directs "Embers", also presents a feature, "Beckett and his Actors".

Beckett's was a fascinating and wholly original voice in world drama. His vision and interpretation of life were both bold and challenging. He was also wildly funny, scattering his often very serious and challenging writing with crisp and wicked Irish wit.

1) 'Intro' (Sunday 9th April 2006 @ 8:00 p.m.)

Introduction to a celebration of playwright Samuel Beckett, marking the centenary of his birth, including newly recorded versions of three of his works.

Presented by Robbie Meredith.

8 min.

2) 'Embers' (Sunday 9th April 2006 @ 8:10 p.m.)

Henry sits on the strand (beach), tormented by the sound of the sea. He conjures up voices, evocations, stories and sounds from his past as he talks to his dead (drowned) father, who doesn't answer, and to his wife, Ada, who does. Throughout it all, Henry tries to drown out the inescapable sound of the sea which weaves in and out, almost like a third character.

'Embers' was written for radio by Samuel Beckett in 1959 and first broadcast on the 'Third Programme' on the 24th June 1959. It was directed by Donald McWhinnie and featured Jack MacGowran, Kathleen Michael, Kathleen Helme, and Patrick Magee.

With Michael Gambon [Henry], Sinead Cusack [Ada], Carly Baker [Addie], Alvaro Lucchesi [The Music Master], and Rupert Graves [The Riding Master].

The music (piano) is performed by Maebh Martin and arranged by Neil Martin.

Directed by Stephen Rea.

Produced by Stephen Wright in Belfast.

37 min.

3) 'Beckett and His Actors' (Sunday 9th April 2006 @ 8:45 p.m.)

Irish actor Stephen Rea presents a personal insight into one of the great figures of 20th-century art.

At the beginning of the 21st-century, Beckett's work is admired by writers, actors, and audiences. Yet he was reputedly an enigmatic and difficult man, who gave few interviews and hated discussing the meaning of his work. Many actors have struggled to cope with the physical and intellectual complexities of some of the most revolutionary theatre of the 20th century.

'Beckett and his Actors' investigates the relationship Beckett enjoyed with his performers. It features interviews with leading actors and directors who have personal experience of working with Beckett. His favourite actors, they were the people who channelled his work, on radio, television, and the stage - and they reveal Beckett to be a very different man from his public persona.

Presenter Stephen Rea has a special affinity with Beckett's work and was closely advised by the writer on a number of productions in the Seventies and Eighties. He is joined by the Billie Whitelaw, Beckett's leading lady for more than 25 years. Whitelaw describes her strong emotional responses to Beckett's plays and reveals that when she runs through their lines, it's Beckett's own voice and rhythm she hears. "Nobody reads those words like Sam does", she says.

Other contributors include Sir Peter Hall, who directed the first English- language production of "Waiting for Godot" back in 1955. He describes the commotion in the theatre on the first night, and his personal difficulties in getting to grips with the work. "It changed me in understanding that less is more... it changed my life completely", he says.

Presented by Stephen Rea.

Produced by Melvin Rickarby in Belfast.

40 min.

4) 'Krapp's Last Tape' (Sunday 9th April 2006 @ 9:25 p.m.)

The setting is the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire during a dark and stormy night. An old man sits at his desk in a dank, poorly lit room, full of moulding paperwork, gawping silently into nothingness, the melting reflection of heavy rain playing on his features. Is he senile? Blasted by some shattering revelation? Awaiting death like Hamm in 'Endgame'?

Krapp, on his 69th birthday, sits down to record a tape, a ritual he has performed every year. Before he starts, he listens back to "that stupid bastard" - his earlier self, aged 39 - and reflects on his past aspirations, dreams, and romances.

Beckett's play lays bare a whole life in a beautifully constructed work, full of bleak humour, anger, and the throbbing ache of lost love.

First performed on stage in 1958 at the Royal Court Theatre by Patrick Magee.

With Corin Redgrave [Krapp].

Produced by Polly Thomas and Carrie Rooney in Manchester.

35 min.

5) 'Not I' (Sunday 9th April 2006 @ 9:55 p.m.)

"Not I" features an actress seated on stage with just her mouth spot-lit. The mouth then delivers a long stream of consciousness. Evasion is the principle theme, as is highlighted by Beckett's note to the text in which the mouth's chief endeavour throughout the play is a 'vehement refusal to relinquish the third person'. The mouth undergoes a desperate struggle to avoid saying 'I', marked by four moments of crisis in which her monologue becomes a question and answer with an inner voice not heard by the audience.

'… out … into this world … this world … tiny little thing … before its time …' – Not I

Written in English in spring 1972. First performed at the Forum Theater of the Lincoln Center, New York, in September 1972. First performed in Britain at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 16th January 1973.

Performed by Juliet Stevenson.

Directed by Katie Mitchell for Naxos Audiobooks

15 min.


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