“He thought of the play as a song, or a long rhythmic poem” – The Irish Times

Samuel Beckett has been refusing to speak to reporters, so when Maeve Binch was allowed to watch his rehearsal directing Endgame, she was understood to sit there quietly and ask no questions.But then Beckett came over to talk to her

Beckett looks 54 rather than 74; he looks more French than Irish, and he looks more like someone who is about to leave and finish a day of hard physical work than for someone who looks A cast like the Messiah came to rehearse to direct a play of their own.

He has spiky hair that looks like he just washed it or tried unsuccessfully to do a Brylcreem on it and gave up halfway through. He has slender fingers and the lines around his eyes disappear like fans, it’s years of smiling, not years of brooding.

He directed San Quentin Workshop in London for Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape for the Dublin Peacock Theatre. It will open in Dublin on May 26.

Beckett has been closely associated with the San Quentin organization since the early 1960s, when he heard about what was happening at America’s Great Prison. one of the prisoners. Rick Cluchey may have been sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and robbery, but it turned out to be only 11 years, he persuaded the authorities to let the prisoners play Beckett plays, they performed in the studio theater, which used to be the prison’s hanging chamber .

Rick Crutch knew almost every word of Beckett’s writing, but, when he was an actor and Beckett was a director, he said he tried to forget everything he had ever thought, trying to rob him of the actor’s tricks and his Memory of the mind and memory. His own explanation, like a blank sheet of paper waiting for Beckett to tell him what to do.

These plays have such an impact on prisoners that they immediately see the parallels between the incarceration that Beckett’s characters feel and their own that they repeat it over and over again. The news spread, even to Beckett in Europe.

Today, Crutch and Beckett are friends, something that San Quentin’s criminals see as impossible. Cluchey and his wife Teresita Garcia Suro call their two young children after Beckett and his wife Suzanne.

That’s what happened at Riverside Studios in London, where they had quite a few sets for Endgame rehearsal. They needed a chair for Hamm to sit on, a ladder for Clover to run up and down, and a litter box for Nag to use. Nell, another Dumpster resident, hasn’t arrived yet, (she’s Teresita, coming from America the next day), so today Beckett plays Nell.

He was endlessly fussy and fussy about the height and shape of props, and he ran up and down Clov’s ladder a dozen times to see if it was the right ladder, giving Clov room to turn around and deliver his lines.

He sat in Hamm’s chair a dozen more times, raising and lowering it so it would be at the right angle when Clover came over and whispered in his ear. I thought I was going to die of anger and impatience, but American actors Bud Thorpe, Alan Mandel and Rick Crutch insisted on every order and hurriedly executed it.

Douglas Kennedy of Dublin’s Peacock Theatre sat in his notebook, keeping an eye on all the requests Dublin needed. Finally, Beckett began to speak.

The main thing you’ll notice is that he thinks the play is a song, or a long rhythmic poem. He can hear the rhythm, he can hear it clearly in his head, and his job as a director is to make the actors hear it. That’s why he repeats each line over and over again, not saying much different to the actor (in fact, you have to struggle to hear the difference), but there is a beat in the way he says it, and once that beat is caught by the actor Arrived, it sounded very different.

Standing in front of them, uttering the perfect words they had said in his own script, to pauses and half-pauses, he was so confident that in this conversation between the poor prisoners, the Almost an obvious definition of the human condition. He never apologized, forgiven, or said, “What I’m trying to say here is… . . .”

In fact, it seems to be standing beside him, the drama, it seems like a major statement, and he’s just helping the actors unravel it.

Beckett was polite, and he never raised his voice. “Bud, can I offer some advice here?” he said to a young American actor, Bud Thorpe, who he thought would never believe it when he had grandchildren, a million Not after a year.

“Alan, Alan, keep the rhythm. You have to knock on the bin, there is a rhythm to the knock, it determines the speed of the conversation. Come on, no, I’ll go into my bin. . . “

Beckett sits next to Ellen Mandel in a love scene between two people imprisoned in a trash can who only remember hope and regret. Alan Mandell said he would never forget it until his death.

He has ridiculous energy, Beckett. When the actors who were decades younger than him were tired and needed a break and a cup of coffee, he was still as fresh as when he first started, the tone, the rhythm flowing through him; his empty body, almost a traditional uniform, Two thin crew-neck sweaters, moving on one side of the stage, flexing, crouching, stretching. Even I, sitting quietly in the chair, started to get tired and wished he would stop for a few minutes.

he made it. He lit another cigarillo he was smoking and walked up to me. I looked behind me nervously, thinking he was going to talk to someone else.

This is a very firm arrangement. I can see but not speak. Write but not interview. I thought he would ask me to leave.

He formally introduced himself to me as if I probably didn’t know who he was and assumed he was the guy from the street directing the play. He asked how the Irish Times was going, and I told him the consistently faithful cowardly story of it being the best newspaper in the world. He said he only sees it from time to time, but he seems to agree with me about its excellence.

“I remember more from my Bertie Symllie days,” he said. “do you know him?”

“No, but I believe he has a bit of personality,” I said, hoping I’d find something interesting to say to Beckett when he decided to talk to me.

“My memory of him is that he ran the newspaper in the bar, he had circles around him, listened to what he wanted to do, and ran away to do it. He used to drink in the palace. Is the pearl still there?”

“No, the bank bought it,” I said. “Banks,” Beckett said thoughtfully. “Banks. How extraordinary.”

It seemed to upset him deeply. I wonder if I should tell him about all the alternative drinking places we found, but I think the idea of ​​the bank owning the pearls frustrates him more than actually depriving them of the drinks.

“And I believe the ballast office clock has gone,” he said gloomily. I agree and hope he finds something that still exists in Dublin.

“How do people know what time it is?” he asked.

“I think they were a little nervous, looking down from the customs building,” I said.

“It’s the wrong angle,” he said.

He was silent then and I wonder if he really cares that people don’t know what time it is or if he thinks differently.

“Will you come to Dublin to see this in person?” I asked.

“Not this time, no, I’m not coming this time,” he said.

His accent was sizzling French with a lot of Dublin. Not as articulate as Sean MacBride, but no different. I’m worried that I’ll leave him in the ballast office and on the Pearl and let him know what to do.

“There’s a lot more, you know,” I said.

He laughed. “I’m sure there is, but I have to go back to France and Germany. . . that’s where my job is. . .”

“What are you going to do next?” I asked him (past tense.

“A TV series, it will be produced in Stuttgart for German TV. I like Stuttgart, not the town itself, it’s in a hole, a deep hole, but I like that you climb the hills outside Stuttgart. I Love the people I work with . . . I look forward to it.”

“Does it have a name?” I wondered.

“No names, no dialogue, no words.”

“What a pity,” I said. I could have done more after listening to him all morning. Anyway, for God’s sake, I’ve become rigid that dramas should have words.

He saw this in my face and smiled. “It will be very satisfying,” he assured me. “It’s all movement, activity, percussion, cohesion . . .”

“Why do you like doing this kind of thing with Germans?” I asked, with a hint of jealousy in my voice.

“Oh, they understand, we understand the rhythm of it . . .” he said.

He picked up the Irish Times on my lap and looked at it for a while, not really reading it, but more of a memory.

He liked Alec Newman, he said, a very gentle man. He admired Myles na Gopaleen and laughed at everything he wrote, but was a little disappointed when he met him because his expectations were too high.

From time to time he thinks a lot about Dublin.

Neil Montgomery. do i know him? He is a good man.

He thinks those young actors have gotten enough rest. He returned to them.

They played what Hamm had to say “it’s no fun” in part of the show. Rick Cluchey gives it the weight it deserves, as Hamm says.

“I think,” Beckett said, “I think any pause after that line is dangerous. We don’t want people to have time to agree with you. You have to move and reply to him before the audience starts to agree with him. “

Beckett laughed, lit another cigar, and settled in for a few more hours.