Remain in light
Genius meets genius in a French- language production of Beckett by PETER BROOK. But it's poor
. compensation, says the director, for
the collaboration that never happened.
Words Andrew Burnet
Three decades ago. an Irishman who chose to write in French and an Englishman of Russian ancestry tnet in Paris. liach. in his way. was a giant of the theatre. and inevitably. a plan began to hatch. ‘I asked Beckett to do something which. it seemed to me. there was a chance in a hundred million he would accept.‘ Peter Brook recalls. ‘()ne night. I had the courage to say. “Will you come together with a group of our actors‘.’ This could be a rich new experience." And to my amazement. he said yes. I couldn‘t believe my luck.‘
As time wore on. however. it became apparent that
Beckett had developed cold feet.
‘I couldn't hold it against him.‘ says Brook now. ‘I loved him dearly and respected him being as he was. He was so private in every way. although he was a marvellously open friend. but in his writing it was so intimate and secret and painful . . .‘ Remembering Beckett. who died in 1989. Brook beams so broadly that his features resemble a Greek comedy mask. His pale blue eyes — less sharp. perhaps. at 72 than they once were — betray a hint of moisture before disappearing into the wrinkles of a laugh.
This bittersweet moment forms a strangely apt postscript to the achineg beautiful performance that is playing at London‘s Riverside Studios. before transferring to Glasgow‘s Tramway. 0/: Les Beam .lours (originally written as Happy Days in l96l) is among the writer‘s funniest and most poignant plays.
‘The other plays
Centring on a couple confined to a mound of earth. it
features several themes from Beckett's earlier works: the onset of decrepitude; existential loneliness staved
. off by'trivial habit: troubling. half-forgotten
Sod couple: Jean-Claude Perrin and Natasha Parry in Oh Les Beaux Jours
are in a closed, gloomy world. This one is about light. Constant, unchanging, brilliant light, which is both cruel and luminous.’ Peter Brook
memories: the trials of co-dependence. Yet it also contains new departures.
‘There are two things that set it apart.’ Brook says. ‘lle‘s attempting something new because he's putting a woman in the centre instead of man. It‘s a totally different sensibility . . . she yearns to be out of this world that is pulling her down: while her husband — who is living there quite contentcdly in this dread/ill hole — has no trace of aspiration of any sort. And she is aspiring towards something which is also new in his plays. which is brilliant light. The other plays are in a closed. gloomy world. and here. suddenly. Beckett is writing a play about light. Constant. unchanging. brilliant light. which is both utterly cruel and pitiless. and at the same time. something amazing and luminous.’
Brook — whose epic .lltl/illh/ltll'ulu established 'l’ramway as a theatre venue in l988 — speaks fondly of ‘the deep. poetic. mythical sense' of (ilasgow audiences. lnevitably. some of its members will be deterred by a mostly static play performed in French. ’ct although the show was created at Brook's studios in Paris. the choice of language is one of design. not convenience. ‘[The French version] is almost identical.‘ explains Brook. ‘but there's a substantial difference in feeling — in the way that a piece of music played on a harpsichord is very different from the same piece played by a brass band. French is an extraordinarily pure. luminous and precise language. The play is more musical and in a way more sensitive and more poetic in French.‘
The synopsis provided in lieu of distracting surtitles is brief. and some passages will inevitably be lost on non-French speakers. However. the performances by Natasha Parry and Jean-Claude Perrin are poised magnificently between grotesque comedy and existential agony. lf Beckett is watching — from whatever wasteland he now occupies — you can imagine him bestowing an approving smile on his old friend.
Oh Les Beaux Jours is at Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 10-Frl 12 Dec. There Are No Secrets: Thoughts On Acting And Theatre by Peter Brook has just been published in paperback by Methuen at £7.99.
? stage and screen before, but his
'If all the world’s a stage, where does that leave the orchestra pit?’ Oscar Hammerstein (maybe).
IRVINE WELSH HAS accepted the English shilling for his debut as a stage playwright. The Edinburgh novelist behind Trainspotting et al has adapted his prose work for
latest work, You’ll Have Had Your Hole, is a theatre piece. The play will be presented at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, directed by Ian Brown, former director of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, who also directed the first ever stage version of Trainspotting.
TOMMY FLIPS OUT! The British tour of Tommy, the classic rock musical
? written by Pete Townshend of The Who, has closed before its
scheduled arrival at the Edinburgh
Playhouse next month. High-profile
and well received, the revival —
which took Broadway by storm a few years ago — has failed to attract sufficient audiences. ’Perhaps we never managed to shake off the idea that it was all something left over from the 705,’ mused producer Andre Ptaszynski. We at The List blame Sega and Nintendo for the demise of the Pinball Wizard.
GLADDER TIDINGS COME from Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, where a cherub will descend with its blessings next week. The first phase of refurbishment work on the building is now complete, and will be unveiled on Tuesday 9 December. Designed by RMJM Architects in close collaboration with five young artists commissioned by Glasgow’s Visual Arts Projects, the new box office development offers a stylish new face to ticket buyers and improved access to disabled clients. Kenny Hunter's sculpture of a leaping cherub is to be installed on an exterior wall, while text pieces by Tracey MacKenna will appear at points throughout the new building. Andrew Miller and Richard Wright have worked closely with the lead architect; while work by Daphne Wright will be included in the
Getting his hole in Yorkshire: Irvine Welsh
21 Nov—4 Dec 1997 THE LIST83