Druid Godot at the Abbey Theatre April May 2017

Galway-based Irish theatre company, Druid, are presenting their acclaimed 2016 production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre from 21st April to 20th May 2017. This production was hailed by Peter Crawley from the Irish Times as  ‘exceptional’ and ‘miraculous’, and ‘the best production for 25 years’, full of fresh insights into this enduring play. It received several 5 star reviews.

Here is the Abbey’s website where you might still be able to find some tickets but it is selling fast: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/2017/waiting-for-godot

This is not the first Beckett production that Druid Artistic Director Garry Hynes has directed – Druid presented Beckett’s Happy Days in 1976 and Waiting for Godot in 1987 – if you search our Staging Beckett database using the search term Druid Theatre Company, you will find details of these and Druid’s other Beckett productions.

Staging Beckett researcher Dr Trish McTighe (University of Birmingham), who has worked on Druid’s Beckett productions, will be reviewing this production of Druid’s Waiting for Godot here, so watch this space.


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.

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.

Beckett Productions in 2014

Happy Days will be staged at the Young Vic London from 23rd January-8th March 2014, with Juliet Stephenson playing the role of Winnie. Credit: Young Vic

Happy Days will be staged at the Young Vic London from 23rd January-8th March 2014, with Juliet Stephenson playing the role of Winnie. Credit: Young Vic

Looking ahead to the 2014 calendar shows that it will be another busy year for Beckett productions in the UK and Ireland. So far, January has already set the pace with Saturday seeing the end of the sold out Royal Court run of Not I/Footfalls/ Rockaby featuring Lisa Dwan, while Tom Owen performed as Krapp at the Rose Theatre Kingston on Monday 13th January . Last Thursday and Friday also saw Company SJ perform Act Without Words II as part of the Abbey Theatre’s The Theatre of Memory Symposium.

More Beckett performances are on their way as early as this week with Juliet Stephenson taking on the role of Winnie in an eagerly anticipated production of Happy Days at the Young Vic directed by Natalie Abrahami. Demand has seen this production already extend its run from 23rd January-8th March.

After a two week break Lisa Dwan returns to her acclaimed trilogy directed by Walter Asmus, though this time the production moves to the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End for a two week run from 3rd-15th February. Later in the year Dwan and the Royal Court will embark on a UK, Irish and International tour. The UK dates announced so far include:  9th-13th September-Arts Theatre Cambridge, 16th-20th September-Birmingham Repertory Theatre and 23rd-27th September-The Lowry Salford.

Productions of Waiting for Godot and Endgame are also planned for the Arcola Theatre, London (7th May-14th June) and the Wilde Theatre, Bracknell (5th-8th June) respectively. Happy Days will also tour to various venues around Ireland courtesy of the Godot Theatre Company.

Richard Wilson, renowned for his role of Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave, returns to the Beckett stage having previously performed as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot at the Traverse in Edinburgh and Royal Exchange Manchester. This time he performs in Krapp’s Last Tape at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield from 25th June-19th July.

As usual Enniskillen will be transformed into Beckett Town when the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival takes its summer residency. This year’s multi-arts festival takes place from 31st July-10th August and will no doubt once again provide a vibrant international perspective on Beckett, with global productions once again expected to descend upon Enniskillen.

Beckett month in Ireland will continue with the annual TCD Samuel Beckett Summer School, from 10th-16th August, providing a rich mix of scholarship, performance and talks.

This extensive list does not even take into account the numerous productions happening internationally such as Godot’s extended run on Broadway with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, Barry McGovern in I’ll Go On, Mouth on Fire’s productions in Hyderabad and Pan Pan’s All That Fall touring in Sydney and Brisbane.

If you have a Beckett production coming up, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list!


Further productions announced since this original post:

Company SJ will present its two site-specific Beckett pieces, Rough For Theatre I and Act Without Words II as the centre piece for the exhibition: “Godot on Rubble; Beckett and Catastrophe”. These performances will run from 10th-14th June at the  Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Musuem, Waseda University, Japan, while the exhibition will be held from April-July 2014 at Waseda University.