Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby set for West End transfer

Lisa Dwan and Walter Asmus at rehearsals of Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby in the Royal Court Theatre ahead of their upcoming production, which is also now transferring to the Duchess Theatre, London.

Lisa Dwan and Walter Asmus at rehearsals of Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby in the Royal Court Theatre ahead of their upcoming production, which is also now transferring to the Duchess Theatre, London.

In February 2014 Samuel Beckett’s drama will return to London’s West End. His three short plays, Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby, will transfer to the intimate Duchess Theatre for a limited two week run from 3rd-15th February 2014 after its original run at the Royal Court Theatre from 9th-18th January 2014 sold out. This production will see Lisa Dwan reprise her critically acclaimed performance of Not I alongside Footfalls and Rockaby, directed by Beckett’s long-time collaborator, Walter Asmus.

In a unique collaboration with Nica Burns and her company Nimax Theatres, all tickets will be sold at Royal Court prices (£12- £25).

Lisa Dwan first performed in Not I at the Battersea Arts Centre in 2005 and subsequently performed the role of Mouth at the Purcell Room in the Southbank Centre, the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival (at the Steele Hall in Portora Royal School in 2012 and in the Marble Arch Caves in 2013), the Bulmershe Theatre at the University of Reading, the Hay Festival and also at the Royal Court most recently in May 2013.

Walter Asmus was Assistant Director to Samuel Beckett when his celebrated production of Warten auf Godot from the Schiller Theatre Berlin toured to the Royal Court Theatre in 1976. He later collaborated with Beckett on many television productions in Stuttgart and at the Riverside Studios London for the 1984 San Quentin Drama Workshop production of Waiting for Godot. Since then Walter has directed Beckett’s work internationally, including his acclaimed Gate Theatre Dublin production of Godot, which went on a 32 county tour of Ireland in 2008.

Further creatives include: Design: Alex Eales, Lighting Design: James Farncombe, Composer: Tom Smail, Sound Design: David McSeveney, Stage Manager: Cath Binks, Assistant Director: Matthew McFrederick.

The Duchess Theatre has proved a familiar venue for West End productions of Beckett’s plays in recent years, with productions of Endgame featuring Simon McBurney and Mark Rylance in 2009 and Krapp’s Last Tape with Michael Gambon in 2011 in residence.

Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby will also tour to: Cambridge Arts Theatre (9th-13th September 2014), Birmingham Repertory Theatre (16th- 20th September 2014) and The Lowry, Salford (23rd-27th September 2014), with international dates to be added.

The Staging Beckett Team is pleased to announce Lisa Dwan is also one of our confirmed speakers for our ‘Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories’ Conference, which will be held in the Minghella Building at the University of Reading from 4th-5th April 2014. More speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

For more information about Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby at the Duchess Theatre visit:

Review: Rough for Theatre I and Act Without Words II

12th to 17th September, Dublin, 2013

Company SJ and Barabbas, dir. Sarah Jane Scaife


Sarah Jane Scaife sets her doubly-billed productions of Rough for Theatre I and Act Without Words II in a disused yard adjacent to the Ulster Bank offices on the banks of Dubin’s Liffey river. Her Company SJ and Dublin theatre company Barabbas are dedicated to re-inserting the writings of Beckett into the architecture and social spaces of Dublin city. As Scaife puts it in the programme notes, they invite audience members to note the surrounding combination of social decay and financial power as they walk to, and enter, the performance space.

Lianne O’Shea’s subtle lighting illuminated areas around the perimeter of the space which initially people were free to investigate: candles circle a quote from Waiting for Godot, written in chalk (‘they give birth astride of a grave’), a fire burns in a small metal bin. When the first performance, Rough for Theatre I, begins, chairs are carried to a semi-circle in one area of the yard, lit by footlights. Under a butterfly tree, its blooms beginning to decay as the autumn cold sets in, A (Trevor Knight) scratches his bow across a battered violin, the sound as uncomfortable to the ear as the biting cold is to the gathered bodies. Scaife’s Rough reveals relationality in extremes, one human reaching toward another in a gesture marred by cruelty and domination. It is not clear what Raymond Keane’s B wants from A: company or servitude?

During the break between the shorts, staff hand us a cup of cocoa, but it does little against what is becoming a very committed Dublin wind. We’re grateful however, and for the fact that no rain is falling. As we turn, shivering to the next performance, dirt and cold become central to this theatrical experience. A and B in Act Without Words II are huddled in sleeping bags on cardboard under the only shelter in the yard – a corrugated iron awning. The more fastidious B’s (Brian Burroughs) response to the dirt around him as he performs the routing of getting up, exercised, dressed and moving his and A’s sack on a few feet, make us even more aware of the precariousness of this existence, as does A’s (Raymond Keane) palsied gestures as he goes through his version of the ‘routine’. A’s movements are painfully slow, as if control over his body is waning and made all the more painful by the biting cold. The dramas, combined with the weather and the darkness, demand that the audience give thought to the difficulties of survival under such conditions.

The performances are a testament to the actors’ skills, retaining physical control and precision throughout the performance – challenging even without the cold. Scaife’s approach focuses on the poverty and deprivation that these texts evoke: Beckett’s use of the vagrant as a reflection upon normative society. Scaife’s siting of the plays expands the resonance to a consideration of the material conditions of poverty and the structural conditions which permit or create it, as well as the spiritual and existential poverty that comes with being, as Heidegger’s Dasein, thrown in the world. In taking Beckett back to the concrete – literally and figuratively – Scaife allows both of these resonances to co-exist.


Raymond Keane in Act Without Words II, dir. Sarah Jane Scaife and Barabbas Theatre Company



Review: Endgame, The Blue Raincoat Theatre Company

6th to 16th March, 2013, The Factory Theatre, Sligo & 24th to 25th August, Happy Days Festival Enniskillen, 2013

Directed by Niall Henry


With director Niall Henry and several company members trained in corporeal mine, the approach that the Blue Raincoat theatre company took to Waiting for Godot responds to many of the demands that the play makes upon its actors’ bodies. John Carty’s Clov warps his spine into something resembling an S-shape: his head tilts forward, his back sags, pushing his abdomen out. His stylised limp reveals a deftness and control over gesture and body, which allows him to evoke the character’s physical decay without diminishing the rhythm of the play. Peter Davey’s Nagg and Sandra O’Malley’s Nell are, similarly, testaments to what can be done with the restricted body, with the former appearing in pale and craggy profile from his oil-drum.

The realist box set, so often in Irish theatre an image of the cottage interior, however ironised, is rendered here in decay: there is no furniture bar the necessary chair for blind Hamm and a pair of oil-drums for Nagg and Nell; its walls are peeling, the inhabitants similarly dilapidated.  The audience enters to this vision: rusting decay, with Hamm in its midst. The Blue Raincoat’s home theatre in Sligo, The Factory, is a converted industrial space in which the company fits dressing rooms, foyer and black box space into what is quite a narrow, though high-roofed space. With seating raked against one wall, Endgame’s set fills the rest of black-box space entirely. When Clov examines the ‘exterior landscape’ through his telescope, there is very obviously no outside. The space meta-theatrically shuts down the possibility of an outside – beyond that ‘window’ is the solid brick wall of the theatre building, thus lending itself readily to the play’s sense of claustrophobia.

If the performance held a flaw, it lay perhaps in the most physically difficult role in the play, that of Hamm. While Ciaran McCauley’s rendering of the part was deeply evocative of Hamm’s decaying and restricted physicality, his vocal pitch modulated little throughout the performance. While this evoked Hamm’s age and decrepitude, it did not communicate the pleasure he takes in narration, revealed in his self-congratulatory ‘nicely put that’. Like Winnie in Happy Days, his words are the only pleasures left to him – there are no more painkillers after all, no more bicycles, nor bon bons. In this pared-away world at the end of worlds, words, and perhaps his torment of servant Clov, are his greatest pleasures. For this reason, the fact that McCauley did not modulate his voice to hint at this pleasure was somewhat problematic and meant that the true darkness of the play was not always registered: it does not rest in the cruelty of the relationships between Hamm and Clov, and Hamm and his parents, but in the abyss into which all of them, especially blind Hamm stares, and which he attempts to cover over with talk, stories, words. That said, this was a satisfying production from a company skilled in physical precision. The peeling walls and Clov’s warped physicality give a sense of life encrusted and slowly dying, with Nagg and Nell a pair of statuesque icons of the apocalypse.

Staging Beckett Conference April 2014 CFP

Conference Call For Papers

Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories

Minghella Building, University of Reading 4-5 April 2014

Staging Beckett is a three year research collaboration between the universities of Chester, Reading, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project started in September 2012, and is exploring the impact of productions of Beckett’s plays on British and Irish theatre practice and cultures while also looking at how Beckett has been staged internationally. It is compiling a database of professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland.

The project’s first conference (4-5 April 2014) will focus on the history, documentation and analysis of Beckett’s theatre in performance: while Beckett’s directing practice has been much discussed, and critical attention has been paid to selected premiere productions (the French, British, Irish or US premieres of Godot, for example), or ‘deviant’ productions such as the 1984 American Repertory Theatre production of Endgame, there is a great deal of work to be done in researching the diversity of productions of Beckett’s theatre in the UK, Ireland and internationally. Questions we are asking include:

  • How did approaches to staging Beckett’s theatre change from the 1950s to the twenty-first century?
  • Have there been distinct approaches to staging Beckett at particular moments and in particular theatre cultures?
  • How have productions of Beckett’s plays commented on or reflected wider political / economic contexts?
  • What kinds of dialogues can we trace between productions of Beckett’s plays and local, national or international theatre histories?
  • Can we trace cross-influences in approaches to staging Beckett across productions?
  • What can particular case studies of individual or comparative productions contribute to constructing performance histories of Beckett’s theatre?
  • How can future performance practice of Beckett’s theatre be informed or inspired by previous productions?
  • We are also interested in methodological issues around Beckett, performance and the archive, and around Beckett, performance and the digital.

We are keen to hear from academics and practitioners (whether UK, Irish or international) interested in the legacies of particular performances, the documentation and analysis of Beckett in performance, and in the dialogues between productions of Beckett’s theatre and wider theatre practices and cultural / political contexts. Issues to consider might be, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How particular directors / performers have approached staging Beckett.
  • How particular economic, funding, and / or political contexts have influenced productions of Beckett’s plays
  • Beckett and stage design / scenography
  • Technical innovation in productions of Beckett
  • ‘Deviant’ or ‘alternative’ productions (ie that have flouted Beckett’s stage directions)
  • Productions that were planned and didn’t happen (refused permission, for example)
  • Beckett and particular local, national or international theatre cultures
  • The ‘festivalisation’ of Beckett
  • International touring productions to the UK and Ireland
  • UK and Irish productions that have toured (such as Dublin Gate Beckett Festival)
  • Digital archives of Beckett in performance / Beckett performance on the web

Please send proposals of c. 150 words to Anna McMullan (  by  Friday 13th December 2013.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Anna at the above email address, or to Graham Saunders ( or Trish McTighe (

Future Staging Beckett conferences are: Staging Beckett in the Regions (University of Chester, September 2014), and Beckett and Theatre and Performance Cultures (University of Reading, April 2015).

Staging Beckett team: Matthew McFrederick (Reading) Anna McMullan (Reading), Trish McTighe (Reading) David Pattie (Chester), Graham Saunders (Reading) David Tucker (Chester).

Staging Beckett: Ian Rickson in conversation with Mark Taylor-Batty

The Minghella Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights campus, Reading.

Thursday 3rd October 7.30pm. Doors open 6.30pm.

Followed by wine reception.

The University of Reading, the Staging Beckett project, and the Beckett International Foundation are delighted to present a conversation with acclaimed theatre director Ian Rickson, who will be talking about the challenges of directing the work of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, with Mark Taylor-Batty who has written extensively on both playwrights.

The AHRC-funded Staging Beckett project, a collaboration with the University of Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, is developing the world’s first comprehensive database of productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland which will be available in 2014. This is a pilot for a wider performings arts database.

An exhibition will be open for the evening of the event to celebrate diverse productions of Krapp’s Last Tape in the UK and Ireland, including Rickson’s production with Harold Pinter, and the premiere of the play at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957, starring Patrick Magee, directed by George Devine and designed by Jocelyn Herbert.  The exhibition will showcase items in the University’s collection related to Krapp’s Last Tape, and items from the Jocelyn Herbert Archive, housed at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London (Wimbledon).

Tickets are free but registration is essential. To book tickets visit: and follow the event link Enquiries:

Ian Rickson was Artistic Director at the Royal Court from 1998 to 2006, during which time he directed Krapp’s Last Tape, The Winterling, Alice Trilogy, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Fallout, The Night Heron, Boy Gets Girl, Mouth to Mouth (also in the West End), Dublin Carol, The Weir (also in the West End and on Broadway), The Lights, Pale Horse and Mojo (also at the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago), Ashes & Sand, Some Voices and Killers. His last production for the Royal Court, The Seagull, transferred to Broadway. Other theatre includes Old Times (West End), The River (Royal Court), Hamlet (Young Vic), Jerusalem (Royal Court, West End and Broadway), Betrayal (Comedy Theatre), The Children’s Hour (Comedy Theatre), The Hothouse and The Day I Stood Still (NT), Parlour Song (Almeida), Hedda Gabler (Roundabout Theatre, New York), The House of Yes (Gate) and Me & My Friend (Chichester Festival Theatre). Film includes: Fallout, Krapp’s Last Tape and The Clear Road Ahead.

Mark Taylor-Batty is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds. He is co-author with Juliette Taylor-Batty, of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and has produced a monograph on Beckett’s first director, Roger Blin: Collaborations and Metholodogies (Peter Lang, 2007). He has written extensively on Harold Pinter, including About Pinter (Faber and Faber, 2005) and the Forthcoming Theatre of Harold Pinter (Methuen Drama, 2014). He is an executive member of the International Harold Pinter Society, and a co-editor, with Enoch Brater, of the new ‘Methuen Drama Engage’ series of monographs on modern drama.

Introduction to Staging Beckett

Introduction to the project

Welcome to the Staging Beckett blog.

Staging Beckett is a three year research project which started in September 2012, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and it is compiling a database of professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland. We are already beginning to get a picture of who was staging Beckett, where and how, in major cities and in the regions of these islands. We will be recording interviews with theatre practitioners and exploring the different cultural or economic contexts of particular productions. We look forward to sharing our research with you, and to hearing from you via the blog or our various activities such as public talks, exhibitions or conferences.

Who are we?
The Staging Beckett project is led by the Universities of Reading and Chester in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The research team includes Matthew McFrederick (Reading), Anna McMullan (Reading), Trish McTighe (Reading), David Pattie (Chester), Graham Saunders (Reading) and David Tucker (Chester).

Upcoming events

Our first public event will be a conversation with the renowned British theatre director, Ian Rickson, on October 3rd, 2013, at 7.30pm, in the Minghella Building, Whiteknights campus, University of Reading.

Rickson directed Harold Pinter in Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape at the Royal Court Theatre London, in 2006. He has also directed Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem with Mark Rylance as Johnny Rooster, and his productions of Pinter’s plays include Betrayal and, earlier this year, Old Times, with Kristen Scott Thomas, Lia Williams and Rufus Sewell.


We will be holding three conferences as part of the project. The first one will be in April 2014, on Beckett and performance histories, the second in Chester in September 2014, on Beckett and the regions, and a final conference in April 2015 on Beckett and performance cultures.

Follow us for more news!

For more info on the Beckett Collection at the University of Reading see  University of Reading Special Collections

For more info on research activities on Beckett at the University of Reading see Beckett at Reading 

For more info on the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Theatre and Performance Collection see Victoria and Albert Museum’s Theatre and Performance Collection