The Staging Beckett team, the Beckett International Foundation and colleagues at the University of Reading are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Billie Whitelaw, a close friend of Samuel Beckett’s and a foremost interpreter of his drama.
Billie appeared in iconic stage, film and television roles, including playing Desdemona opposite Laurence Olivier in Shakepeare’s Othello at the National Theatre in 1965, and appearing in such films as The Omen and The Krays. However she will be particularly remembered for her long term collaboration with Samuel Beckett.
Billie first appeared in Beckett’s Play in 1964, and went on to perform in the premieres of Not I, Footfalls (specially written for her by Beckett) and Rockaby, and the television plays Ghost Trio and …but the clouds…. Beckett described her performance in the BBC television version of Not I (1975), as ‘miraculous’.
Billie had a close association with the University of Reading’s Beckett International Foundation since she became the first Annenberg Fellow in 1992 . During her week-long residency she gave a series of workshops and performances for staff, students and members of the public. Over the years she has been an important supporter of the Beckett Collection and was a Patron of the Beckett International Foundation. In 2001 she received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Reading.
The University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation recently purchased the unique archive of Billie Whitelaw’s work with Beckett. The archive, funded by generous contributions from the Beckett International Foundation, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, will be made available to the public as soon as possible. It will be a fitting tribute to a magnificent actress and dedicated friend, muse and favourite actress of Samuel Beckett.