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Review: Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby, Royal Court Theatre

Posted on 14 January 2014 by Adam Foster

Not I
This is theatre as endurance sport. Not on account of its length – I’ve had far longer nights in the theatre – but I have not hitherto experienced a more intense theatrical event than Samuel Beckett’s Not I.

In otherwise complete darkness (and I mean complete darkness), a disembodied female mouth, known simply as Mouth, floating eight feet above the stage, delivers a stream of consciousness – as Beckett directed – at the speed of thought.

Watching Lisa Dwan perform the play is the theatrical equivalent of – well, there is no equivalent. It is a marvel, and surely the most challenging role in theatre history. Anyone who hasn’t seen the level of physical restraint and face paint involved in performing Not I would do well to do watch Dwan’s explanation of what the play is like from behind the impenetrable wall of darkness.

The play itself is impossible to fully comprehend, but perhaps that’s the point. As Beckett himself has commented, he hoped the play would “work on the nerves of the audience, not its intellect”. As such, it is a play experienced in sad, isolated fragments: a poetic voice endeavouring to comprehend a world of utter darkness. Yet, somehow, it is one of the most exhilaratingly brilliant nine minutes you’re likely to spend in a theatre. What follows, in Footfalls and Rockaby, is a relentlessly intense 50 minutes which, though precisely realised by director Walter Asmus, simply can’t compare to Not I. But, then again, what could?

Footfalls features May, wrapped in tatters, pacing back and forth like a metronome on a strip of bare landing outside her dying mother’s room. While its formal and visual precision is easy to admire, it is a hard play to love. Rockaby, meanwhile, explores loneliness and features a prematurely old woman dressed in an evening gown, sitting on a wooden rocking chair that appears to rock of its own accord. Watching the play is akin to being stuck in a room with a broken record player, or an elderly relative, repeating over and over the same broken words.

Although I could admire them technically, the two plays, for whatever reason, felt largely distant to me. It was almost as though they were being performed at arm’s length. There is, of course, nothing wrong with the plays. They’re brilliant. Obviously, they’re brilliant, I mean it’s Beckett for goodness sake. Neither is there anything wrong with this production. The evening is realised with such stunning precision, in fact, that you’re unlikely to see a production come closer to the author’s prescribed directions. I could have just done with a bit more room for manoeuvre, and for interpretation.

The iron grip with which the Beckett estate guards the texts and monitors performances of his work has been widely documented. Indeed, they have even been known to issue injunctions against theatres in an attempt to stop performances which deviate from Beckett’s detailed stage directions. I think we have reached a point where we might need to move beyond such a narrow understanding of what Beckett’s work can be. I fear his plays risk becoming museum pieces: stunningly realised, but difficult to truly connect with. That is, unless directors and designers are given the opportunity to really interact with his remarkable work.

I realise there is more than an ounce of contradiction to my argument, given my waxing lyrical about Not I. Nevertheless, I don’t think it would be a crime for someone to mix it up a bit (although, I admit, even typing that does feel somewhat blasphemous).

The theatre is, after all, a collaborative medium. Arguably, increasingly so. Indeed, the primacy of the playwright is increasingly being challenged by new models of multi-authored and multi-disciplinary work in the twenty-first century. For a playwright who did so much to change the face of modern (and post-modern) drama, it would be a shame for Beckett’s work not to engage with these exciting new paradigms.

Not I / Footfalls /Rockaby is playing at the Royal Court until 18 January. The show is sold out but transfers to the Duchess Theatre, at Royal Court prices, from 3 February. For more information and tickets see the Royal Court Theatre website.

Adam Foster

Adam Foster

Adam graduated from the University of Exeter in 2012. He is currently enrolled on Royal Holloway’s MA Playwriting course run by the playwright and academic Dan Rebellato. He has previously trained as an actor at The BRIT School and is represented by Alchemy Active Management.

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Ticket Offer: FREE tickets to The Big Idea: Belief at Royal Court Theatre

Posted on 28 October 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Big Idea Belief

FREE tickets to The Big Idea: Belief events at the Royal Court Theatre this week:

The Big Idea brings together leading thinkers and artists from all walks of life to engage with the big ideas of our times, through a series of debates and events. Inspired by the themes of Rachel Delahay’s Routes and Abhishek Majumdar’s The Djinns of Eidgah, The Big Idea: Belief events are

Islam: What’s the Big Idea?
Mon 28 Oct 6.15pm
Ziauddin Sardar explores Islam as a faith with guests Rania Hafez, Khyle Alexander Raja and Aamer Hussein looking at Sunni and Shi’a identities to ask how we define Islam today

Young, Angry and Throwing Stones: Political and Religious Radicalisation in Kashmir
Tue 29 Oct 6.15pm

Playwright Abhishek Majumdar gives an insight into the history of Kashmir and what life is like for its people today, chaired by author Victoria Schofield with Renos K Papadopoulos

I Speak for Myself – Feminism and Islam
Thu 31 Oct 6.15pm

Humera Khan, Dr Laura Zahra McDonald (Chair), Sabrina Mahfouz and Samira Shackle debate and discuss Islamic feminism and the role of women in Islam

Global: Local – Cultural Identity in London
Sat 2 Nov 6.15pm

Abdul-Rehman Malik, Nadir Nahdi, Murad Qureshi and Suhayla El-Bushra celebrate and interrogate the plurality of cultural experience amongst young Londoners

FREE tickets available using promo code BIGIDEA at the box office or online.

BOOK NOW by the following means:

Call the Box Office: 020 7565 5000  or Book Online via the Royal Court Theatre website.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Competition: Win tickets to The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at the Royal Court Theatre

Posted on 08 October 2013 by A Younger Theatre

We’ve got five pairs of tickets to see Dennis Kelly’s The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at the Royal Court Theatre to give away. It’s super easy to enter, just fill out the competition form below, and you’ll be entered into a chance to win tickets for the performance on Saturday 19th October at 8pm.

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
By Dennis Kelly

Royal Court Theatre

Ticket competition for: Saturday 19 October, 8pm

If you could lie without flinching, corrupt without caring and succeed at all costs – how far could you go…how much could you make?

From the early promise of the 70s through to unrelenting capitalism of the 80s and 90s, follow Gorge on the journey from innocence to savage greed and knotted honesty, as he invents three golden rule for success, whatever the cost.

An electrifyingly dark tale from the writer of Channel 4’s Utopia and Matilda the musical.

Watch the trailer here:

For more info visit the Royal Court Theatre website or call 020 7565 5000

Enter the Competition

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Struggling to enter? Email marketing[at]ayoungertheatre.com with the details above to be entered.

Competition closes on 15th October at 3pm. Winners will be announced shortly afterwards. Tickets can not be exchanged nor refunded, and no cast alternative can be offered. The Royal Court Theatre and A Younger Theatre reserve the right to cancel this competition without warning. Tickets are subject to availability.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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AYT Recommends: The Best Theatre 1st – 16th October 2013

Posted on 01 October 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Stuck for what to see for the first few weeks of October? See the roundup of the best theatre from A Younger Theatre’s Jake Orr and Eleanor Turney. Bite-sized and bursting with top tips. Enjoy!

Clout Theatre The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity

Jake recommends…

Contemporary theatre is alive and kicking in London, but you can be ahead of the game by seeing the latest research in the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Collisions Festival. I particularly recommend seeing the new work-in-progress by Joseph Mercier, whilst over at Battersea Arts Centre you can see two highlights of mine from the Edinburgh Fringe, Clout Theatre’s The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity (review here) and Made In China’s Gym Party (review here).

New writing is hitting an all-time high with Theatre503 delivering the brilliant debut of Chris Urch’s Land of Our Fathers, whilst the Royal Court brings Dennis Kelly’s The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas to the stage. The Finborough Theatre has its Vibrant Festival back again, which always throws up fascinating discussions on new writing.

Book ahead for the Young Vic’s 2014 season which had my jaw dropping to the floor – so many good directors including Peter Brook and Katie Mitchell, not to mention Simon Stephens. Also be sure to book for The Light Princess, the new Tori Amos musical at the National Theatre, and it’s the last few weeks of Headlong Theatre’s Chimerica in the West End.

If you live in Bristol you should be looking at getting a hug in the dark with a group of singers. Sound intriguing? The Wardrobe Theatre’s Hug sounds beautiful. There’s only a few more days to catch Kate Tempest’s newest play Hopelessly Devoted at Birmingham REP and you shouldn’t miss 20 Stories High’s Melody Loses Her Mojo at Contact Theatre in Manchester. In Newcastle you should be checking out The Noise by Unlimited Theatre and in Liverpool be sure to catch Crime and Punishment at Liverpool Everyman Playhouse.


Eleanor recommends…

Having just moved away from Bristol/Bath, I’m gutted to be missing Bristol Old Vic’s new production of Great Expectations, which has its press night tonight. Looks set to be a good’un. Also at BOV this week is Table of Delights at “theatrical tasting in five acts” by Theatre Damfino and Flinty Red – food and theatre at the same time. What’s not to like?

Staying in the South West for a moment, Rebecca Manson Jones’s Ibsen-award-winning production of An Enemy of the People stops off at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, the Ustinov Studio in Bath continues its trilogy of Spanish Golden Age plays, and the National Theatre of Scotland makes its first visit to Bath Theatre Royal’s main house with David Greig’s Dunsinane. Community theatre gets epic in York with the opening of Blood and Chocolate, which has a cast of more than 200 people!

HAG, my favourite show of the Edinburgh Fringe, lands at the Soho Theatre in London this week, as does Bryony Kimmings’s Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model and Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been an Incident. Quite a good week to be at the Soho… Also in London, the Almeida’s production of Ghosts (more Ibsen) looks well worth catching and The Love Girl and the Innocent, at the Southwark Playhouse from 10 October, has me intrigued…

 

Photo from Clout Theatre’s The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

More Posts - Website

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