Premiered in New York in 1961, Happy Days - along with Waiting for Godot - remains one of Beckett's most famous stage plays. Hall previously directed the virtual monologue at the National in 1975, when Peggy Ashcroft played Winnie. Other actresses to have given notable performances of the part include Madeleine Renaud in France, Irene Worth in the US and, most famously in this country, Billie Whitelaw, who appeared in numerous Beckett plays at the Royal Court in the 1960s and 70s.
For much of the time in Happy Days, Winnie is buried up to her waist in a mound of earth, with only a few possessions - including a toothbrush, a mirror and a revolver - to hand. Despite Winnie's chirpy account of the minutiae of her daily life, occasionally interrupted by the unseen Willie, there's a lingering suspicion that her "happy days" aren't quite so happy after all.
Best known for TV's The Good Life, Kendal's most recent West End credits include Humble Boy, Fallen Angels and Alarms and Excursions. She's previously been directed by Hall in Amadeus, Othello at the National, Waste, The Seagull and An Absolute Turkey in the West End. Formerly artistic director at both the National and the RSC, Hall was also director at the Arts Theatre from 1955 to 1957.
Prior to its West End season, Happy Days will play from 3 to 8 November 2003 at Bath's Theatre Royal, where Hall's first summer repertory season is currently underway (See News, 23 Jun 2003). The Beckett production is designed by Lucy Hall and presented at the Arts Theatre by Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Fiery Angel. The part of Willie has not yet been cast.
- by Terri Paddock