Is Samuel Beckett Watching Over Us?

HAMM:          We’re not beginning to… to… mean something?
CLOV:            Mean something! You and I, mean something! (Brief laugh.) Ah that’s a good one!

– Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Near my house there’s a street called Beckett Road. Whenever my family drives along it, I announce to the car at large that we are safe on our journey, because Samuel Beckett is watching over us.

This is also how I felt at the Year 11 showcase of Beckett’s short plays on the 7th and 8th of September. Perhaps it was the pages from his plays scattered around the studio, framing the performance space. Perhaps it was his letters, read aloud at every intermission between performances. Perhaps it was the suspiciously Beckett-esque figure in the corner, typing madly as the plays progressed. We as an audience had been transported into an Absurd space, one where we were all playing together in Beckett’s sandbox as he watched over us with a (hopefully) approving eye.

One thing I’ve learned over the course of my IB Theatre journey is that learning a new style (like Absurdism) isn’t just about a change in aesthetic, in the use of stylistic devices – it’s learning a new way of thinking about the world. To perform a style, you must engage with its intent. This idea was particularly important for the Year 11s – the Theatre of the Absurd doesn’t use the logic of the ‘real’ world. To perform these ‘Beckett shorts’, the cohort had to learn to dwell in a world without meaning and translate that for the audience.

Much of our IB Theatre journey is concerned with devising work, but the Year 11s had a different challenge – to find a directorial concept for one of the plays. The concepts, and the consequent use of production and performance elements, varied wildly between performances – from a production on a bare stage and costumes only in black and white, to one that used an inflatable palm tree and a water bottle dangling on a string, to the final performance, in which the sole performer stood in a spotlight and delivered a monologue without moving from her place.

The Year 11 Beckett Shorts felt like a meditation on the meaning (or lack thereof) that we create in our day-to-day lives – a way for the audience to connect with the Absurdist playwrights of the past and bring their deliberations and ambiguity into the present and the future.

May Samuel Beckett watch over you.                                      

…article written by Samantha Hammond, Year 12