“Performing the Archives” Conference

Some information below about an upcoming conference on the status and use of performing arts archives at NUI, Galway:




“Performing the Archives” Conference

NUI Galway 2015

22 – 24 July 2015


In 2013, the Abbey Theatre and NUI Galway launched ‘A Digital Journey through Irish Theatre History’ – the digitization of the Abbey Theatre archive, the largest theatre archive digitization project ever attempted. When this project is completed, more than 1 million items including scripts, costume designs, prompt books and performances will be available to study for generations of scholars to come. Theatre scholarship is being transformed at NUI Galway.

This conference capitalizes on NUI Galway’s unparalleled strength in Irish theatre and literary archives, taking advantage of other holdings including the Druid Theatre, Lyric Theatre Belfast, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Thomas Kilroy, Siobhan McKenna and the Galway Arts Festival, among others, to facilitate a national and international conversation about the place of archives in not only theatre and performance research and teaching, but arts practice and perception of theatre history more broadly.

By emphasizing a collaborative approach between the archive service of the James Hardiman Library, academic staff of the Drama and Theatre Department, School of English, NUI Galway, as well as fostering and creating engagement between NUI Galway students, scholars and theatre practitioners and with wider national and international research community, this event will showcase NUI Galway as a hub for research in theatre and drama as well as a world leader in innovative research technologies and digital humanities.

Coinciding with the Galway Arts Festival, the conference will immerse participants in the living performance culture of Galway as the Galway Arts Festival links together artists from around the world to mount Ireland’s largest international arts festival. Through working with further campus-city relationships, such as the Druid Academy, Galway – its University and City, as well as the west of Ireland will be shown to be a cultural landmark as well as an innovator in leading collaboration.

The conference will primarily be based in the new Hardiman Research Building, providing a base to showcase the central research point on campus for the Humanities as well as linking into adjacent exhibition space, providing an access point for local and visiting scholars to experience why the Hardiman Building is a critical and crucial exponent for encountering research and fostering discovery on campus.

“Performing the Archives” will gather together scholars, artists and archivists engaged in working with archival materials on research and performance projects to explore the uses and possibilities of the archive today from theoretical and methodological perspectives. We will debate:

  • What is the status of archival research methodologies in published research and graduate training today?
  • What are the possibilities of collaboration between researchers and practitioners working together to remount work based on the archives or research on new material? What working models exist and what have yet to be imagined?
  • How has the digital humanities begun to reshape the possibilities of archival engagement?
  • How can we support the labour of not only archival research methodologies but the maintenance of the archives themselves? How does the holding location of archives (university vs. community archive) affect the circulation of these resources?  How can partnerships be expanded or reimagined?
  • How has the cataloguing of new/recent archives contributed to new learning and change?
  • ‘From Stage to Street’ – Connection of archives, theatre and society: Documentary theatre and socially responsive theatre
  • Theatre, Peace and Conflict – How memory of theatre and conflict, especially that of Northern Ireland, is newly understood and experienced through the archives and contributing to resolution and reconciliation
  • The craft of the playwright: Drafting, editing and writing for stage or radio


For more information, contact Barry Houlihan (barry.houihan@nuigalway.ie)

or Charlotte McIvor (charlotte.mcivor@nuigalway.ie).










Publication: Last Tape on Stage in Translation Unwinding Beckett’s Spool in Turkey

One of the most exciting aspects of our recent conference was the opportunity to get a sense of  the variety of work being done on Beckett’s drama internationally – courtesy of our many international delegates. Continuing in this vein, I would like to draw attention to a publication by one of our conference delegates, Burç İdem Dinçel, which addresses translated productions of Krapp’s Last Tape in Turkey.


Picture of Last Tape on Stage in Translation

From Cambridge Scholars Publishing:

Samuel Beckett’s theatrical works maintain a prominent position within contemporary theatre. His plays provide a prodigious potential to study several forms of acting, staging, and dramaturgy, as well as language and translation, thereby setting a fertile ground to tackle the problematic issue of the relationship between theatre criticism and theatre-translation criticism. That is precisely what this study aims at by drawing attention to the fundamental characteristics of translated theatre texts as blueprints for productions and taking several aspects into account from directing to acting, from staging to performance, together with the language factor. To that end, Burç İdem Dinçel focuses on one of Beckett’s significant plays, namely, Krapp’s Last Tape, situating it within the author’s oeuvre and along the way scrutinising not only the theatrical pieces but also the prose. By looking into the Turkish translations and productions of the play, this book brings forth a new dimension into approaching theatre through translation.

For more information and a sample chapter, click here.

For purchase at Amazon UK/ USA


From the Archives: Peter O’Toole in Waiting for Godot

Born in 1932 in Connemara (or so he claimed), O’Toole passed away in December 2013 at the age of 81. Much has been written about his career of late: he was as notorious for his drinking as much as for his career decisions – his choice, for instance, to take parts in less than top quality films at the point in his career when he was gaining respect for his Shakespearian roles on the stage. This actor lived a life marked by a refusal to accept the mainstream, a reputation for being difficult and demanding, and for enjoying the odd tipple.

Later claiming Waiting for Godot to be his favourite play, it was during the early days of his career that O’Toole played Vladimir (Bristol Old Vic, 1957). Patrick Stewart, who has recently played the part to international acclaim, speaks of O’Toole’s performance as inspirational for him as a then budding drama student.[1] O’Toole played the role again at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1969 – the first time the play was performed at this theatre. The story which was doing the rounds prior to this production was how O’Toole had been turned down by the Abbey company in the early days of his career due to the fact that he didn’t have enough Irish. Though, as Desmond Rushe of the Irish Independent wrote, when asked about this, Ernest Blythe denied this ever happened.[2] It is unclear from the news record whether or not the story is apocryphal, although it is mentioned by several reviewers.

The production was well-received, although some reviewers wondered somewhat cynically, who was the greater draw: O’Toole or Beckett. [3] The Irish Times commends the skilled variety style performances of both Donal McCann and Peter O’Toole, and how the latter refrains from showing his star quality virtuosity. The set (Norah McGuinness) together with Leslie Scott’s lighting conveyed ‘all the desolation of Beckett’s wasteland’.[4]

Beckett tried to prevent this production happening, but succeeded only in limiting it to one month and preventing it from becoming a repertory piece.[5] James Knowlson suggests various reasons for this antipathy, from his feelings about Ireland, a personal dislike of O’Toole and a never-forgotten grudge against Alan Simpson for changing the opening lines of the play in 1955. While the Irish reviewers were positive, if cynical, about the casting of a star actor, Beckett reports to Con Levanthal with some satisfaction Mary Manning-Howe’s view of the production as ‘appalling’ and ‘O’Toole-ridden beyond redemption’.[6]

Peter O’Toole, Donal McCann and Danny Figgis went on to play the same roles in a 1971 production of the play, directed by Frederick Monnoyer, at the Nottingham Playhouse.


[2] ‘An Abbey Waiting for Beckett.’ The Irish Independent, 6 November, 1969. University of Reading Archives, Stage Files, MS 1792, f687.

[3] ‘A Great Year for Actors.’ The Irish Independent, 4 January 1970.  University of Reading Archives, Stage Files, MS 1792, f973.

[4] ‘Memorable “Godot” at the Abbey.’ The Irish Times, 2nd December, 1969.

[5] William Hutchings, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: A Reference Guide (USA: Praeger, 2005), p. 87.

[6] Damned to Fame, pp. 566-7.

Fellowship congratulations!

Congratulations from the Staging Beckett team to our colleague at Reading, PhD student Matthew McFrederick. In the last few days, Matthew has learned that he has been offered a fellowship to study at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, as part of the AHRC’s International Placement Scheme. I feel sure that he will return to us with wonderful new material.

Congratulations and best of luck for your research Matthew!

Call for Papers – Staging Beckett at the Margins

University of Chester, 11-12 September 2014

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

Our second conference, to be held at the University of Chester, 11-12 September 2014, will focus on perceived notions of Beckett at the margins, on productions staged outside London and other major theatrical centres. What has the impact of Beckett’s drama been upon regional, small national, touring and marginal theatrical practices and cultures? What is at stake when staging Beckett in marginal cultures or lesser-known geographical areas? How does Beckett’s work move from a country’s capital city to its regions? Does Beckett’s work speak to national, or local, cultural contexts? How does it fit within established theatrical, cultural and economic infrastructures?

We are keen to hear from academics and practitioners interested in how Beckett has been, or might be, staged in areas beyond the major theatrical centres of London, Dublin, Paris, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, etc. Issues to consider might be, but are not limited to, the following:

Theatre and local politics

Cultural marginalisation

Small-scale productions

Amateur productions

Planned productions that failed to be realised


Beckett in Scotland

Beckett in Wales

Beckett on tour, nationally and internationally

Beckett as a marginal author

Beckett and subaltern cultures


Please send proposals of c. 150 words to stagingbeckett@chester.ac.uk by 31 May 2014.

Staging Beckett at Reading 2014

A big thank you to all those who participated in the Staging Beckett conference at the weekend. We had delegates from around the world – Norway, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, USA, Brazil, India and of course Ireland and the UK, and it was very exciting to get a sense of the rich and varied approaches to Beckett’s drama and the ways in which the drama continues to resonate within these unique cultural contexts.

Thank you also to our wonderful keynote speakers. Professor Brian Singleton of Trinity College, Dublin spoke eloquently about Dr Sarah Jane Scaife’s site-specific productions of Beckett’s drama, specifically the ways in which this work has made visible the overlooked spaces of Dublin city, and their ignored and often homeless inhabitants. Dr Scaife herself shared a keynote panel with actress Lisa Dwan and director Natalie Abrahami. They each spoke of the various routes by which they came to Beckett’s drama and how their work has developed; our conference was greatly enriched by the insights of these practitioners and scholars.

Most of all however, thanks go to those who made the event possible: organiser Prof Anna McMullan and assistants Tom, Nick, Shonagh and Niamh.

We look forward to meeting you all again at the University of Chester in September – a call for papers to follow shortly – and/or at Reading next year!

Staging Beckett Conference: Constructing Performance Histories

 April 4-5th 2014, Minghella Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights Campus.
Staging Beckett’s Inaugural conference on 4th – 5th April 2014 will focus on the history, documentation and analysis of Beckett’s theatre in performance in the UK, Ireland and internationally. 
Staging Beckett: The Impact of Productions of Samuel Beckett’s Plays in the UK and Ireland is an AHRC-funded project which runs from 2012-2015. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Reading and Chester and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The project is compiling a database of all professional productions of Beckett’s plays in the UK and Ireland, with accompanying research resources. The project’s conferences are: Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories (Reading April 4-5, 2014), Staging Beckett in the Regions (Chester, 11-12 September, 2014), and Samuel Beckett and Contemporary Theatre Cultures (Reading, April 2015). 
Staging Beckett: Constructing Performance Histories features papers on productions of Beckett from across the globe, including Belgium, Brazil, Hungary, India, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, the United States and the UK. Topics will cover Beckett and stage design, Beckett’s theatrical intersections with Pinter and with Shakespeare, staging Beckett in situations of censorship, or crisis and resistance from besieged Sarajevo to the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park New York, staging Beckett beyond the theatrical frame, and performance histories and perspectives.
Registration fee: £50 per day waged; £30 per day students, seniors and unwaged.
Keynote Lecture: ‘Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance’, Professor Brian Singleton, Trinity College Dublin, Friday 4th April, 2.30pm
Practitioners’ Panel: ‘Staging Beckett Now’: Saturday 5th April, 3pm.  
Natalie Abrahami (Associate Director, Young Vic Theatre, director of Happy Days, starring Juliet Stevenson at the Young Vic, London, Feb-March 2014)
Lisa Dwan (recent performances of Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby at the Royal Court and Duchess Theatre, London, on tour during 2014)
Sarah Jane Scaife (director of site specific performances of Act Without Words II and Rough for Theatre 1 in Dublin (2013), Limerick, London and New York).
 More details at:
The Staging Beckett Research Team: Matthew McFrederick (Reading), Anna McMullan (Reading), Patricia McTighe (Reading), David Pattie (Chester), Graham Saunders (Reading), David Tucker (Chester).
Provisional Schedule
Friday April 4th
9.00-10.15 Tea / Coffee and Registration
10.15-10.30 Welcome (Professor James Knowlson) and Introduction
10.30-12.00 Panel 1: Historical Intersections
  • Raquel Merino Alvarez ‘Staging Beckett on Spanish censored stages: 1955-1976’
  • Paulo Henrique Da Silva Gregorio ‘Beckett and the Shakespeare Revolution in the 1960s’
  • David Tucker That first last look in the shadows’: Using Performance Histories of Beckett and Pinter’
12.00-12.15 Tea / Coffee
12.15 – 1.45 Panel 2: Staging Beckett Globally 1
  • Priyanka Chatterjee ‘Staging Beckett in Bengal: Revisiting History and Art’
  • Burç Dincel ‘”They…To Play”: A Turkish Take On Beckett’
  • Brendan McCall and E. K. McFall, ‘Staging Krapp’s Last Tape in Turkey, Western Australia and Norway’
1.45 – 2.30 Lunch (served in the Minghella Foyer)
2.30 – 3.30 Keynote Lecture, Professor Brian Singleton, ‘Beckett and the Non-Place in Irish Performance’
3.30 – 4.00 Tea / coffee
4.00-5.30 Panel 3: Beyond the Theatrical Frame
  • Luz María Sánchez Cardona, ‘Beckett, the electronic medium of radio, and Krapp’s Last Tape
  • Brenda O’Connell, ‘Culture Shock: (Re) Staging Beckett in caves and car parks’
  • Lisa FitzGerald ‘Coming out of the Dark: Performing Place in Pan Pan’s Production of Beckett’s All that Fall
5.30 -7.00 Book launch and wine reception (served in the Minghella)
  • Patricia McTighe, The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett’s Drama, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
  • David Tucker, A Dream and its Legacies: The Samuel Beckett Theatre Project, Oxford c. 1967-76, Oxford: Colin Smythe, 2013.
8pm Dinner: Pepe Sale, 3, Queen’s Walk, Reading city centre (£27.50pp): http://www.pepesale.co.uk
Saturday April 5th
8.30-9.00 Tea / Coffee and day registration
9.00-10.30 Panel 4: Staging Beckett Globally 2
  • Robson Corrêa de Camargo ‘Playing Beckett in Brazil’
  • Anita Rákóczy ‘Godots That Arrived: Waiting for Godot In Budapest Before and After 1989′.
  • Ewa Brzeska ‘Violating Becketts’ Prescriptions For Theatre in Poland’
10.30-10.45: Tea / Coffee
10.45-12.15: Panel 5 Staging Beckett and Survival / Resistance
  • Thomas Saunders ‘Ownership and orphaned Irish identity in Susan Sontag’s staging of Waiting for Godot
  • Arthur Rose ‘Developing Beckett in New Orleans’
  • Lance Duerfahrd ‘An Unprotesting Play within a Protest: Waiting for Godot in Zuccotti Park’
12.15-12.30 Tea / Coffee
12.30-2.00 Panel 6: Designing Beckett
  • Sophie Jump, ‘Physicalising the Text: Jocelyn Herbert and Samuel Beckett’
  • Anna McMullan ‘Beckett and Irish Scenography’
  • Trish McTighe ‘The Tree at the Gate: Beckett and Le Brocquy’
2.00-3.00: Lunch (served in the Minghella Foyer)
3.00-4.15 Practitioner Panel: Staging Beckett Now
  • Natalie Abrahami (director of Happy Days, starring Juliet Stevenson at the Young Vic, London, Feb-March 2014)
  • Lisa Dwan (recent performances of Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby at the Royal Court and Duchess Theatre, London, on tour during 2014)
  • Sarah Jane Scaife (director of site specific performances of Act Without Words II and Rough for Theatre 1 in Dublin (2013), Limerick, London and New York)
4.15-4.30 Tea / Coffee
4.30-6.00 Panel 7: Performance Histories and Perspectives
  • Kate Dorney, ‘Beckett in the Frame: a visual history of productions documented at the Victoria & Albert Museum’
  • Matthew McFrederick ‘Staging Beckett at the Royal Court Theatre’
  • Nicholas Johnson and Jonathan Heron ‘The Performance Issue’

6-7pm Launch of Journal Of Beckett Studies special issue on Performance, and closing of conferen

From the Archives: Cyril Cusack in Krapp’s Last Tape, The Abbey Theatre, June 1960

The great Irish actor Cyril Cusack (1910-1993), who was well known internationally and highly accomplished on both the stage and the screen, performed in a double bill of Krapp’s Last Tape with Shaw’s Arms and the Man at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1960 (Note that Abbey productions were at this time still being presented at the Queen’s theatre following the fire of 1951). Cusack, an actor whose career spanned almost the breadth of the 20th century, first performed on the stage at the age of 7, and seems to have had a deep interest in Beckett’s work, particularly so in the 1950s and 60s. A few years prior to this production of Krapp’s Last Tape, he had written to Beckett looking for permission to do a bilingual version of Waiting for Godot. In May 1955, Beckett wrote to him giving his permission for this planned bi-lingual adaptation of the play at the Abbey Theatre. Cusack’s vision had the play set in Connemara, with Vladimir and Estragon speaking Irish to each other and English to Pozzo and Lucky ‘as is the familiar pattern in Gaeltacht areas’. Cusack recounts much later that Donald Albery’s resistance to Godot being produced in Dublin in English made him, in temper, suggest this measure. Beckett gives him the necessary contact details for the rights from Editions de Minuit but seems somewhat bemused by the request writing, ‘By all means do it in Gaelic in Dublin if you think it worth while. Why parts in English?’[1] This particular production, with all its postcolonial resonances, never materialised; Cusack went on to play Krapp at the Abbey and later made a recording of readings of Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable (Caedmon Records, 1963).

A programme for Cusack’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape is held at the Dublin City Library and Archive and no doubt some new material will come to light through the Abbey Theatre’s digitisation project at NUI, Galway. Reviews for this production suggest some disappointment, with Krapp’s Last Tape in particular. Yet this was down perhaps to the strength of the production which preceded it. One reviewer had the opinion that, coming after the ‘tour de force’ of Arms and the Man (with Maureen Cusack and directed by Godfrey Quigley), Krapp’s Last Tape was something of a disappointment: ‘Mr Cusack laboured the early earthiness and the grotesque, bewildering the audience, leaving them uncertain how to take the poetry, and tempting them perhaps to seek an easy refuge in his virtuosity.’[2] Yet, negative comments aside, this doubly-billed production clearly had appeal; after playing in Belfast at the Empire Theatre and in Dublin, it went on to represent Ireland at several European festivals of drama. During what was a month-long tour of Europe, Cusack’s performances won him the individual award for best actor the International Festival in Paris.[3]

cusack Cyril Cusack (1910-1993)





[1] See Fehsenfeld et al (eds), The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1941-1956, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 533-4

[2]Arms and the Man & Krapp’s Last Tape’, Irish Times, 21 June 1960

[3] ‘Best Actor Award for Cyril Cusack,’ Irish Times, 14 July 1960, p. 1.

Taking Stock: Recent Irish Productions

Selected productions in 2013 from Ireland’s smaller companies


Whether it is to do with the anniversary of Waiting for Godot, or helped by the creation of the Happy Days Festival in Enniskillen, it seems that there was much Beckett in the air in 2013 – especially among some of Ireland’s foremost smaller, independent theatre companies. Pan Pan, who have recently presented Embers and All that Fall, is a good example (a link to this company’s website with images from Embers, can be found here). The Blue Raincoat theatre company, whose production of Endgame is reviewed on this blog here, is another. However there are companies who have been working on Beckett for quite some time who have presented work recently also: Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, for example. Their production of Waiting for Godot ran in Dublin, Belfast, and Boston in October and November. Reviews of their successful international tour can be found in the following: Broadway World, Boston Globe, Edge Boston and Emertainment Monthly. Conor Lovett brought a remarkable vulnerability to his subtle Vladimir, set against a visually arresting lunar landscape.

This is the second time that the company have worked on this play. However their first production came much earlier in their careers. While in the interim years artistic director Judy Hegarty-Lovett and the Lecoq trained Lovett have established themselves as among the finest interpreters of Beckett’s prose works, they have turned (or returned) now to this dramatic work.

The Beckett related work that companies like Gare St. Lazare, Blue Raincoat, Pan Pan and Company SJ are currently engaging in is a clear indication of the energy that the drama still brings to the Irish theatre scene and more widely. While all these companies began life or came to notice in the 1990s and all share some connection to Ireland, Blue Raincoat and Pan Pan have only recently begun to work on Beckett’s drama. The former presented their very successful Endgame this year (2013) and the latter presented their production of the radio play Embers this year also, and All that Fall in 2012. While the fact that such innovative companies have turned to Beckett recently is notable in itself, it is also interesting to see the kind of work in which companies who have had a longer relationship with the author, like Company SJ (with Barabbas) and Gare St. Lazare, are engaging. Company SJ’s site specific production is reviewed here. It is exciting to see what new and innovative routes they are taking into the work, as well as what new perspectives on the drama are emerging because of the work of all of these companies. This is one of the key questions that the Staging Beckett Project is asking our interviewees, which include members of the above companies: just what is it that keeps these artists coming back to or going towards Beckett?


lovettgodot Gary Lydon (left) as Estragon and Conor Lovett (right) as Vladimir in the Gare St Lazare production. The cast also included Taig Murphy in the role of Lucky and Gavin O’Herlihy as Pozzo, seen below on the ghostly lunar set.