Waiting for Beckett

PJ O'Brady in "Krapp's Last Tape." Courtesy of Mouth on Fire
PJ O'Brady in "Krapp's Last Tape." Courtesy of Mouth on Fire

Waiting for Beckett

by: John Gunning | .
Metropolis Magazine | .
published: March 18, 2014

Award-winning theatre group Mouth on Fire returns to the capital this spring with “Solo,” a show comprised of three one-person Samuel Beckett plays. The Irish outfit will be performing for six days in April at Theatre X-Cai on the site of the old Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena. As with last year, each 90-minute performance will be followed by an intimate question and answer session with the cast. Director Cathal Quinn will also conduct a workshop on Saturday, April 5 open to anyone interested in Beckett, Irish theatre or acting in general. “Solo” highlights three of Beckett’s shorter works: Not I, A Piece of Monologue and Krapp’s Last Tape.

According to Mouth on Fire co-founder Melissa Nolan, the group’s focus on the smaller chamber plays helps make Beckett accessible to all. Nolan and Quinn set up Mouth on Fire in 2010 with the intention of employing “highly skilled actors to promote Beckett’s work in conventional, unconventional and site-specific locations.” So far, they have lived up to that mission statement bringing the Nobel laureate’s work to Russia and India, staging productions in a psychiatric hospital and even putting on a radio play in a completely darkened theatre. The group has close ties with the Beckett estate and works to ensure that despite the diverse locations and settings, the author’s work is performed faithfully.

For Nolan, last year’s “Before Vanishing” show in Japan was a personal highlight. “I loved performing in Tokyo. The audience were listeners. They paid attention. Theatre of the absurd can prove difficult to capture Irish audiences with. The set is very sparse, no fancy costumes. An audience member has to work harder for a Beckett play. I found in Tokyo they appreciated it more than back home. “ One reason may be because traditional Japanese theatre, stylistically at least, has much in common with the works of the Irish playwright. One of the organizers of “Solo,” Mariko Hori Tanaka, a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, has written extensively on the links between Beckett and Noh. The connection is one Nolan agrees with. “[Beckett's] use of time and space, pause, silence, stillness, mask-like expression. The repetition, perfection, stage presence and its absence are all found in Noh,” says the actress.

For those attending the upcoming shows Nolan promises an experience that provides an opportunity “to question, to ask, to provoke and to think.”

Theatre X-Cai, Apr 4-8.

Metropolis Magazine website

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