Lisa Dwan on Beckett, Rehearsal, and Audience Response

Acclaimed actress talks to Rosiė Clarke about Beckett and the theatre
Lisa Dwan pictured during rehearsals as May in Footfalls. Photograph: John Haynes
From Rosiė Clarke (The White Review):
The White Review: What initially brought you to Beckett?

Lisa Dwan: I remember being blown away by Cascando. I was very fortunate to be working in Dublin when I was 18 with the likes of Stephen Brennan and Robin Lefevre, and people working on the Beckett on Film at the Gate Theatre. That was my landscape, and that was my bar when I first came to Beckett. It was during a time when the work was being canonised, and also severely revered. I was just starting out professionally and I remember Stephen Brennan – he was playing my dad in Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog at the time – told me about this play where there’s a disembodied mouth floating on stage, and the effect of the deprivation of light meant that the mouth appears to roam and oscillate. I was transfixed by this image. He also told me he knew someone who tried to learn the role and went mad.

Selective memory meant that I did not recall that information when it came to learning Not I. When I was sent the script years later, I saw a transcript of how my mind works, how thought isn’t a strict stream of consciousness, is not linear, how it filters sounds outside of you, and thoughts, memories, interruptions, doubt, and fear. I knew instinctively that the script needed to be spoken at speed. I auditioned and got the part. I was extremely lucky to come from the landscape Beckett refers to, that I could hear the musicality of the poetry, and that I wasn’t overly burdened by that intellectual reverence and intimidated by the impenetrable nature of Beckett’s immediacy, which people forget. If you just shut off your intellect for a minute and allow it to wash over you, you get more than just trying to grasp it. [Read More]

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