Lisa Dwan Presents the Internationally Acclaimed Beckett Trilogy: Not I / Footfalls / Rockaby
NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts will present Irish actress Lisa Dwan in her internationally acclaimed Beckett Trilogy: Not /Footfalls/ Rockaby, running for six performances from April 13 - 17, 2016, at NYU Skirball Center. Beckett Trilogy will open on April 13, the 110th Anniversary of Samuel Beckett's birth, and the opening night performances will feature a post-show celebration and conversation honoring Beckett's legacy.
Dwan has become world famous in the recent past performing the works of Samuel Beckett. Her trilogy of one-woman Beckett plays has sold out all over the world, from London's West End to Hong Kong, Paris, Belfast, Cambridge and New York, where she was described by Ben Brantley in The New York Times as "an instrument of Beckett, in that way saints and martyrs are said to be instruments of God." These performances will be the last time Dwan will perform The Beckett Trilogy.
Dwan had been performing Not I since 2005, directed by Natalie Abrahami. The Times of London said Dwan "turned what is commonly regarded as the hardest role an actor can tackle into a tour de force." Dwan was then specially coached by the late actress Billie Whitelaw into Not I. Whitelaw, who died last year, was long considered Beckett's own muse and had been coached into the part by Beckett himself.
The program is completed with two other Beckett classics: Footfalls and Rockaby, directed by Beckett's close friend, assistant, favorite director and long-time collaborator Walter Asmus, who suggested that these plays could be performed as a single program.
In January 2014, Dwan performed them in a critically acclaimed sold out engagement at the Royal Court Theatre in London, where forty years previously Not I had its UK premiere. This was followed by a transfer to the West End and the international tour that included sold-out performances at BAM in 2014. The production has earned the most extraordinary reviews and sold out every venue she has played around the world.
Lisa Dwan said, "This is late Beckett. He distilled and distilled and pared away all the fat and you are left with something very potent. In these plays, I play womb to tomb, a country, a continent; I travel vast differences of age. I think he gets closer writing a sort of truth about the human condition, our frailty, our humanity. And to an actor, he offers the most expansive landscape you could ever imagine. What other author would ask that much of me? These performances sell out -- and I am amazed that a quarter century after his death that there is a great hunger to hear this work."
Not I is an intense monologue, set in a pitch-black space lit by a single beam of light. A disembodied female mouth floats eight feet above the stage and delivers a stream of consciousness, spoken, as Beckett directed, at the speed of thought "to play on the nerves of the audience, not the intellect," said Dwan. It cannot be performed fast enough. For Whitelaw the speed of thought was 14 minutes; for Dwan the speed of thought is nine minutes.
"When I met Billie Whitelaw we greeted each other as long lost war warriors. Neither of us had met another actor who had played the role. About a year later she asked me if I could come around. 'I want to give you his notes; I need to give you his notes.' I fully expected her to take out a rehearsal manuscript with his handwriting - but instead she asked me to sit down at the kitchen table. She instructed me to begin - and then she began to conduct me, just as Beckett had conducted her, across a kitchen table."
Footfalls features the character May, wrapped in tatters, pacing back and forth like a metronome, on a strip of bare landing outside her dying mother's room. Footfalls was first performed by Billie Whitelaw, for whom the piece had been written, at the Royal Court Theatre, as part of the 1976 Samuel Beckett Festival, directed by Beckett. Dwan's performance is the first time the Beckett Estate has let one actress play both roles (mother off stage and May on stage).
Rockaby is considered one of the most famous of Beckett's last works. It explores loneliness and features a prematurely old woman dressed in an evening gown, sitting on a wooden rocking chair that appears to rock of its own accord. Rockaby was first performed in New York in 1980 starring Billie Whitelaw and then at the National Theatre in 1981.