Some say the plays penned by the late Irish playwright, novelist and poet Samuel Beckett are gloomy. Others claim they are insightful with elements of wit. Decide for yourself as The Beckett Project, a production featuring four emotive plays Play, Footfalls, Rockaby and Not I by Beckett, is unveiled. We sit down with director Patricia Boyette to chat about this much anticipated performance.
What are the issues tackled in The Beckett Project?
All the plays deal with the plight of the human being in extreme situations that we can all relate to. Questions about life and death are raised. These basic themes provide a challenge for the actor and a different experience for the audience. The effect of the plays is in the experience itself. They do not have a neat beginning, middle and end and a comfortable story line. They work on our imaginations, hearts and minds through their visual images and the poetic music of the language.
Is it hard directing The Beckett Project then?
Directing The Beckett Project is a challenge in many ways. Because Beckett’s works are so minimal, so mathematical in their precision and use of space, the elements that are prescribed must be exact. The empty theater space must be carefully considered and the use of that particular theater space in relation to the few objects and set pieces must be exact.
Many interpret Beckett’s works as stark and pessimistic. Do we expect The Beckett Project to be melancholic?
Beckett is often thought to be dark and depressing. This is not at all the case. There is great humour in Beckett, subtle though much of it is. I find Play extremely funny—a man, his wife and his mistress caught in a hell of their own making and unable to see or change the foibles of their own nature that keep them from repeating the same mistakes. When we performed in Ireland, we had audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter.
Ireland? Where will this play be performed at after Singapore?
This is our debut performance in Asia. We will be performing in Madison, Wisconsin, in the US in September after leaving Singapore. There are some discussions about performing in Seoul, but these are not yet confirmed.
The graduating students of Theatre Training & Research Programme (TTRP) headline this production. What is it like working with them?
They have been amazing. I was concerned about the relatively short time we have to train and rehearse. But these student-actors are professional and because of their training in a variety of theater forms, our training instantly made sense to them and they were able to apply it quite quickly.
OK, lastly, what do you hope the play will achieve in Singapore?
I hope that the Singapore audiences will enjoy the adventure of experiencing something completely different from the usual theater fare and will come away with a sense of why Beckett is one of the most influential and provocative theatrical poets of the 20th century.