The Gate Theatre, Dublin's ambitious Beckett Festival - in which the entire 19 play canon of the late French playwright's work is presented over an 18 day period - is coming to London at last, after previously being presented in Dublin (in 1991) and New York (in 1996).
Forming part of the now annual BITE (Barbican International Theatre Event) Festival at the Barbican Centre, the Beckett Festival runs there from September 1-18. As well as the plays, there will be an extensive education programme in addition to complementary seasons in the Barbican Cinema and art gallery, all of which is intended to give BITE audiences an opportunity to take a comprehensive overview of one of a playwright who is widely regarded as among the century's most influential.
This is the first time that the entire repertoire of Beckett's theatrical work is being performed in the UK. In the words of the organisers, "The Beckett Festival offers theatregoers the dramatic equivalent of a gallery retrospective of this major artist."
Four plays are presented as individual pieces: Waiting for Godot will receive 8 performances (Sep 1-5), and Happy Days and Endgame will receive 4 performances each (Sep 8-11 and 15-18 respectively), all in the Barbican Theatre; while Krapp's Last Tape will receive 5 performances (Sep 3-5, 12), in the Barbican's Pit. The remaining 15 plays are presented in the Pit as five triple bills.
The plays are performed by an ensemble company of 20 actors, including Susan FitzGerald, Pauline Flanagan, Bill Golding, Barry McGovern, Johnny Murphy, Joan O'Hara and Alan Stanford.
Meanwhile, in the Barbican Cinema, a season of work by and about Beckett will include screenings of the two versions of Film, Beckett's only incursion into cinema: the 1965 Buster Keaton original, written specially for Keaton by Beckett, and the 1979 version starring Max Wall and Patricia Hayes. Other films include two documentaries about Beckett, Silence to Silence and As the Story Was Told, and filmed versions of Beckett's television plays which include performances by Billie Whitelaw (perhaps Beckett's leading English-speaking exponent and muse) and Patrick Magee.
In the Concourse Gallery, the Barbican have commissioned artists Stephanie Smith and Eddie Stewart to make a new site specific video/sound installation for the Festival. Also, theatre photographer John Haynes will exhibit some of his historic pictures of Beckett at work at the Royal Court and productions elsewhere.
The Barbican have also devised an education programme that includes events designed for students, teachers and the general public. For schools, there is a workshop on Endgame with members of the acting company. For teachers, there is a specially devised course exploring techniques forworking on Beckett. And for the theatregoing public, there is a nightly 45 minute 'In Conversation' series, featuring acting company members and academics, as well as 'Beckett Insights', a series of post-show discussions in the theatre on the first night of each show.
A season ticket is available for all 19 plays at £90.
Mark Shenton, What's On Stage.