Samuel Beckett Radio Plays

Samuel Beckett wrote five radio plays.

Beckett's work provokes strong opinions in many people, both for and against.

I'm not going to make caustic comments about a dead playwright's work. If you don't like it, listen to something else. It's not as if there's a world shortage of drama.

Some of his plays were written for stage; some have been adapted for radio. My only personal comment - don't buy expensive theatre tickets for a Beckett production without some awareness of what you're in for.

These are not "plays" or entertainment in the normal sense of the word. They are 'events' which you may or may not like. 'Nuf said.

I have listened to two of them: "Krapp's Last Tape" and "Not I", broadcast to mark the Beckett centenary on 9 Apr 06, R3.

An old guy living on his own has recorded one tape a year about his life nearly all his life. Now he's old and he has boxes of them. He listens to a tape where he remembers an encounter with a girl on a boat half a lifetime ago.

That's it ....

Funny - I didn't really like it much, but I keep thinking of the old guy, his tape recorder, and recalling that image from the past ....

Monologue delivered with great skill and speed by Juliet Stephenson. Again, not my cup of tea, though it conjured up some vivid images, rather like speeding through a town on a train, glimpsing lots of things but only for a second or two....

I'm hoping WAITING FOR GODOT is more to my taste, which I should hear before long.

Plays in VRPCC collections: Not I, Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website


Samuel Beckett: Works for Radio
The original BBC broadcasts now available

To celebrate Samuel Beckett's centenary, the British Library is publishing a 4-CD set of the works Beckett created for radio. The CD set is being released on Thursday 13 April 2007, the Beckett centenary day.

These rarely-heard historic recordings were originally broadcast by the BBC and feature the five works created by Beckett expressly for the broadcast medium: All That Fall, Embers, Words and Music, Cascando and Rough for Radio, together with the rarely heard curio, The Old Tune - Beckett's translation of Robert Pinget's La Manivelle - and the monologue From an Abandoned Work. The broadcasts span the period 1957-1976.

This is the first time these recordings have been made commercially available.

Samuel Beckett's first work for BBC Radio, All That Fall, was transmitted on 13 January 1957. The play was extremely well received and further broadcasts followed, including Patrick Magee's performance of the monologue From an Abandoned Work and in 1959, Beckett's second play, Embers, considered by many to be his masterpiece in the genre.

Performers include Beckett's preferred English-language actors Jack MacGowran, Patrick Magee and Billie Whitelaw, and in a rare acting performance for radio, fellow playwright Harold Pinter. The producers for the BBC include Donald McWhinnie, Martin Esslin and Barbara Bray, who all formed close professional and personal relationships with Beckett.

Steve Cleary, British Library Sound Archive Curator of Literature and Drama: "Beckett was emphatic that his works for radio were conceived for aural reception only, and was disinclined to permit their presentation in another medium such as the stage, even as unadorned readings. They are works of art in themselves, presented here in their original incarnations, as their author intended."

The recordings are distributed under licence from the BBC.

For further information, contact Catriona Finlayson at the British Library Press Office: +44 (0)20 7412 7115 or catriona.finlayson@bl.uk

Notes for Editors

  1. Samuel Beckett Works for Radio: The original broadcasts Price £39.95. Published by the British Library. The CD Sets will be on sale at the British Library Bookshop. The CD can also be purchased online at http://www.bl.uk/services/publications/onlineshop.html
  2. The British Library Sound Archive is one of the largest sound archives in the world. It holds over a million discs, 200,000 tapes, and many other sound and video recordings. The collections come from all over the world and cover the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature, to oral history and wildlife sounds. Collection material comes in every conceivable format, from wax cylinder and wire recordings to CD and DVD, and from a wide variety of private, commercial and broadcast sources. And of course, the British Library Sound Archive operates a wide-ranging recording programme of its own.

Full track listings follow

Disc One

All That Fall

A play for radio by Samuel Beckett
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 13 January 1957
Duration: 64.03

Mrs Rooney (Maddy), an old lady - Mary O'Farrell
Christy, a carter - Allan McClelland
Mr Tyler, a retired bill-broker - Brian O'Higgins
Mr Slocum, Clerk of the Racecourse - Patrick Magee
Tommy, a porter - Jack MacGowran
Mr Barrell, a station-master - Harry Hutchinson
Miss Fitt, a lady - Sheila Ward
A Female Voice - Peggy Marshall
Mr Rooney (Dan), husband of Mrs Rooney - J. G. Devlin
Jerry, a small boy - Terrance Farrell
and members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company
Produced by Donald McWhinnie

Extract from Schubert's String Quartet No.14 'Death and the Maiden', D810, second movement, performed by the London String Quartet

Disc Two

From an Abandoned Work
A meditation by Samuel Beckett
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 14 December 1957
Duration: 23.33

Spoken by Patrick Magee
Produced by Donald McWhinnie

A play for radio by Samuel Beckett
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 24 June 1959
Duration: 45.00

Henry - Jack MacGowran
Ada - Kathleen Michael
Addie - Kathleen Helme
The Music Master / The Riding Master - Patrick Magee
Pianist - Cicely Hoye
Produced by Donald McWhinnie

Disc Three

The Old Tune ( La Manivelle)
A conversation piece written for the Third Programme by Robert Pinget
English text by Samuel Beckett
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 23 August 1960
Duration: 32.52

Mr Cream - Jack MacGowran
Gorman - Patrick Magee
Produced by Barbara Bray

Words and Music

A play for radio by Samuel Beckett, with music by John Beckett
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 13 November 1962
Duration: 27.45

Words - Patrick Magee
Croak - Felix Felton
Orchestra conducted by John Beckett
Produced by Michael Bakewell

Disc Four

A play for radio by Samuel Beckett, with music by Marcel Mihalovici
First broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 6 October 1964
Duration: 20.45

Voice - Patrick Magee
Opener - Denys Hawthorne
Produced by Donald McWhinnie

Rough for Radio (Pochade Radiophonique)
A rough sketch for radio, translated by Samuel Beckett from his French original
First broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 13 April 1976
Duration: 20.48

The Stenographer - Billie Whitelaw
The Animator - Harold Pinter
Fox - Patrick Magee
Dick - Michael Deacon
Produced and directed by Martin Esslin

Recording credits
All That Fall P 1957 BBC; From an Abandoned Work P 1957 BBC; Embers P 1959 BBC; The Old Tune (La Manivelle) P 1960 BBC; Words and Music P 1962 BBC; Cascando P 1964 BBC; Rough for Radio (Pochade Radiophonique) P 1976 BBC
[show BBC logo]
The recordings on these discs are taken from the original broadcasts made by the British Broadcasting Corporation
The BBC logo is a trade mark of the British Broadcasting Corporation and is used under licence
BBC logo © BBC 1996

All tracks courtesy of the Estate of Samuel Beckett, Curtis Brown
Tracks 4/1 (Cascando) and 4/2 (Rough for Radio - Pochade Radiophonique) courtesy of Les Editions de Minuit S.A.
Track 3/1 (La Manivelle) courtesy of the Estate of Robert Pinget, c/o Les Editions de Minuit S.A.

The recordings included on these discs are in copyright and may not be copied, published, or transmitted to the public in any way, including via the Internet or radio or television broadcast, without the permission of the copyright holders.

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