Simon McBurney on Beckett's Stage Directions

Actor and director Simon McBurney discusses Beckett's instructions

As a new production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame begins in London, actor/director Simon McBurney explains the complexity of Beckett's stage directions, and recounts his brief glimpse of the playwright on a Paris street in 1984:
[...] We pause frequently; we stop, all four of us actors. Even Tom Hickey, who is the one actor who is not a Beckett virgin, is flummoxed. For the other three, we do not know where to go next. How to approach it again. How to say it. How any meaning, even a musical one, can find its way into the waiting silence. We search. And in the language itself it seems there is a search as well. The language itself appears to be "looking" for something. A home?

When Beckett was asked by an eminent French critic why, if he hated words as he claimed he did, should he want to use them to convey his art, he replied, in French: "What do you want, monsieur? One has nothing else."

His language is as rich as any poet's, but it is pared to an essence. I guess any writer who worked for James Joyce, as Beckett did, researching Finnegans Wake, helping, supporting, admiring his immense reach, would look for another route. So Beckett stripped away. Reduced to nothing. Made the language do everything with nothing. Gave it a freedom to mean nothing, yet a muscularity that encompasses all.

Perhaps? I don't know, as I stutter through the lines again. For a moment, and for a reason I cannot explain, it flickers into extraordinary life. I hope it will do so night after night. I cannot be sure. There is only the trying. [Read More]

Simon McBurney's production of Endgame runs at the Duchess Theatre in London until December 5th.