Further casting and highlights have been announced for the Beckett Centenary Festival, which opens next week, running simultaneously at London’s Barbican Centre and Dublin’s Gate Theatre from 21 March to 6 May 2006 (See News, 9 Nov 2005). The venues are teaming up to celebrate the 100th birthday (on 13 April 2006) of playwright Samuel Beckett (pictured) with a six-week programme of performances, films, talks, visual arts and music.

At the Barbican, the Gate Theatre Dublin’s acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot directed by Walter Asmus, which was one of the highlights of the Dublin venue’s 1999 Beckett festival, is restaged. Original cast members Stephen Brennan, Barry McGovern, Johnny Murphy and Alan Stanford are reunited, and joined by Barry O’Connell for the London run, from 5 April to 15 April (preview 4 April) in the Barbican Theatre, before transferring back to the Gate.

A new production of Endgame, directed by Charles Sturridge, runs at the Barbican from 20 to 23 April (previews from 18 April), starring Kenneth Cranham, Peter Dinklage, Georgina Hale and Tom Hickey.

In The Pit, John Hurt reprises his lauded performance in Krapp's Last Tape, which played during the Gate’s 1999 Beckett Festival and subsequently transferred to London. Directed by Robin Lefevre, it runs at the Barbican from 26 April to 6 May (preview 25 April), following a season in Dublin.

Audiences can also see three double bills of some of Beckett’s shorter plays in the Barbican’s Pit: Rockaby, directed by Loveday Ingram and starring Sian Phillips, and Ohio Impromptu, directed by Nick Dunning and starring Peter Cadden and Harry Towb, run together from 22 to 28 March (preview 21 March); Footfalls, directed by Alan Gilsenan and starring Susan Fitzgerald and Justine Mitchell, and Come and Go, directed by Annie Ryan and starring Barbara Brennan, Susan Fitzgerald and Bernadette McKenna, run from 31 March to 9 April (preview 30 March); and Play, directed by Michael Barker Caven and starring Ingrid Craigie, Nick Dunning and Catherine Walker, and Catastrophe, directed by Selina Cartmell and starring Olwen Fouere, Owen Roe and Karl Sullivan, run from 13 to 23 April 2006 (preview 12 April).

There will also be visual displays including films and photographs of the playwright (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969), and poetry readings and discussions taking place throughout the Festival.

Meanwhile, the University of Reading in Berkshire explores the life and works of the influential writer at the Museum of Reading from 25 March to 25 June 2006. Featuring interactive, visual and auditory components, Samuel Beckett – The Irish European will tell the story of Beckett’s life and achievements from his birth in Dublin on 13 April 1906, through his wartime experiences in France, to his worldwide fame following the success of Waiting for Godot and his death in 1989.

- by Caroline Ansdell