Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

Samuel Beckett on UbuWeb

BBC Beckett Centenary Festival (2006)

1. Embers by Samuel Beckett

In 1976 Stephen Rea worked with Samuel Beckett on a production of the play, Endgame. During rehearsals Beckett said, 'don't think about meaning think about rhythm' and he regularly emphasised the humour in his work. Stephen Rea has translated his experience of working with one of the great modern dramatists into a funny and moving new production of this wonderful radio play, Embers.

Henry (Michael Gambon) sits on the strand haunted by the sound of the sea. He conjures up voices, evocations, stories and sounds from his past as he tries to drown out the inescapable presence of the sea.

Henry..........................Michael Gambon
Ada ............................. Sinead Cusack
Addie..........................Carly Baker
The Music Master.......Alvaro Lucchesi
The Riding Master......Rupert Graves

Piano...........................Maebh Martin
Arranged by................Neil Martin

Directed by Stephen Rea
Produced by Stephen Wright

2. Sunday Feature: Beckett and his Actors

The programme investigates the relationship Beckett enjoyed with his performers by presenting specially recorded interviews with leading actors and directors who have personal experience of working with Beckett. It is presented by renowned Irish actor Stephen Rea who has a special affinity with Beckett's work and was closely advised by Beckett on a number of productions in the 1970s and 1980s. He is joined by the great Billie Whitelaw , Beckett's leading lady for over 25 years, often regarded as a medium for his work. In the programme she recounts that while not understanding the plays intellectually she feels them very strongly emotionally. When she runs through the lines, it's Beckett's own voice and rhythm she hears: "Nobody reads those words like Sam does".

Beckett premiers were memorable events for directors. The first English performance of Beckett's notorious Waiting for Godot was directed in 1955 by Sir Peter Hall , then aged only 24, who recounts the commotion in the theatre on the first night, and his personal difficulties in getting to grips with this work: "It's a new voice, a new language... it changed me in understanding that less is more... it changed my life completely".

Actor Lawrence Held found Beckett's directing to be unusual, but inspiring: "Very strict, very precise, and almost balletic at times ... in Godot he approached me about the end of the first act when the moon rises and he said "next time talk with the tone of moonlight in your voices", and we understood exactly what he meant".

Using these specially recorded interviews, Beckett and his Actors gives the listener an opportunity to get closer to the mind of Beckett, to be in the room with him as he directs, and gives a personal insight into one of the great figures of 20 th century art.

3. Krapp's Last Tape

A new radio production of Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett, starring Corin Redgrave.

Krapp's Last Tape is one of the most moving and well loved of Beckett's stage plays. In less then an hour, the dramatist lays bare a whole life in a beautifully constructed work, full of bleak humour, anger and the throbbing ache of lost love.

An eccentric old man settles down to record a tape on his 69 th birthday, a ritual he has performed every year. Before he starts, he listens back to his earlier self, aged 39, and reflects on past aspirations, dreams and romances.

April 2006 is the centenary of Samuel Beckett's birth. One of the greatest 20 th century writers, Beckett is a fascinating and wholly original voice in world drama. His vision and interpretation of life were both bold and challenging. He was also wildly funny, scattering his often very serious and challenging writing with crisp, wicked Irish wit.

It is ironic perhaps to celebrate Beckett's birthday with a piece that ultimately looks at the approach of death. However, it is a masterful play and although written for the stage, the language and structure lend themselves to the intimate experience of radio.

4. Not I

Beckett's short monologue for a woman's voice, simply called Mouth, performed by Juliet Stephenson.

Directed by Katie Mitchell

5. Afternoon Play: Sam O'Bedlam by Mark Burgess

On the centenary of Samuel Beckett's birth, Mark Burgess's play finds the great playwright celebrating his 70th birthday.

Dramatist: Samuel Beckett
Dramatist: Mark Burgess
Director: David Blount
Samuel Beckett: Jim Norton
Geoffrey Thompson: Dermot Crowley
Younger Beckett: Stephen Hogan
Younger Thompson: Andrew Scott
Ursula: Alison Pettitt
Michael: Grant Jones

6. Waiting for Godot

7. Night Waves Landmarks: Samuel Beckett """Remarkable twaddle," was the verdict of one critic when Peter Hall - then a 24-year-old director - brought Samuel Beckett 's Waiting for Godot to the stage for the first time. As part of Radio 3's Beckett Season, Hall joins Paul Allen to explore why a play in which, famously, "nothing happens - twice", changed the face of theatre. Producer Laura Thomas

Unknown: Peter Hall
Unknown: Samuel Beckett
Unknown: Paul Allen
Producer: Laura Thomas

Samuel Beckett in UbuWeb Film