Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

Bill Irwin's ON BECKETT is playing at The Old Globe July 14 -17th. 

Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

"The ON BECKETT evening, at least if I'm doing my job, is full of laughter."

Bill Irwin, who is not only a two-time Tony Award winner but also a master clown is sure to bring a uniquely funny experience in his solo piece ON BECKETT playing at The Old Globe July 14 -17th.

Created based on Irwin's long-time love of Beckett's work, and his use of language which has been haunting him for many years. The show became a combination of Irwin's two passions, the art of clowning and the power of Beckett's language and unique storytelling ability.

"More than a decade ago I realized I have all this Samuel Beckett in my head and I want to channel it somewhere so it will stop haunting me. It's his brinksmanship with big questions, but he's also an Irish raconteur at the same time. That is a function of Becket's writing in my life-a kind of haunting quality and it won't leave me alone."

Think of it like a humorous theatrical exorcism that explores the existential and the mundane of life and art.

From there ON BECKETT was born and became a 90-minute solo piece that explores multiple works from Beckett including TEXTS FOR NOTHING, WATT, and WAITING FOR GODOT to name a few. Passages from the playwright's writings intersect with Irwin's comedy, and contemplation of the stories and questions Beckett explored through his art to create this unique and funny show.

"It's a look at where the clown traditions intersect with Beckett's work. I've sat with Beckett scholars who say "there's no place for the clown in Beckett's writing" and then there are others who say "Oh, well it's all clown material." I guess I'm somewhere in the middle but that intersection is really an exciting place for me."

The art of clowning is a specific language and one that uses the physical to explore the world around them. Beckett's works use dark comedy to look at existential contemplations, the will survive even when faced with an incomprehensible world. Irwin says that the meeting of these two art forms intrigues him and forms the center of this show.

Interview: Bill Irwin talks about the intersection of Beckett and the art of clowning in ON BECKETT at The Old Globe

"There are a lot of words said in the 89 minutes of ON BECKETT but there is a lot of physical language too. Clowning is just the language of the human body and looking at the human deep foible. The saying is 'Pride goes before the fall' and with clowns you're always looking at that literal fall, the pride comes after when people laugh."

You may have last seen Irwin perform virtually in the show IN-ZOOM along with Christopher Fitzgerald during the pandemic. Irwin is glad to have the chance to bring laughter to The Old Globe this time in person.

"If any of these performances are without laughter then I have failed in my job."

How To Get Tickets

You can see Bill Irwin in ON BECKETT at 8 p.m. July 14 and 15; 2 and 8 p.m. July 16; and 2 and 7 p.m. July 17. For ticket information, you can call (619) 234-5623 or visit theoldglobe.org.

Photo Credit: Bill Irwin in On Beckett. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


Bill Irwin in Irish Repertory Theatre's virtual production of On Beckett. Photo courtesy of Irish Repertory Theatre/Carol Rosegg.




From This Author - E.H. Reiter


Review: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at The Old Globe offers mirth, magic, and mischief
August 10, 2022

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is bright, funny, and isn’t afraid to underscore its magical whimsy with the consequences that send everyone running into the forest to begin in the first place.  A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM is playing at The Old Globe through September 3rd.

Review: CABARET invites you in old chum at Cygnet Theatre
August 5, 2022

CABARET has an excellent cast, a talented band, and puts on a show that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Leave your troubles and any acknowledgment of threatening reality at the door when you are invited to the Kit Kat Klub. Music, mischief, and mayhem lurk just inside, so come to the CABARET at Cygnet Theatre old chum, it's playing through September 18th.

Review: DIAL M FOR MURDER brings modern touches to a midcentury murder mystery at The Old Globe
July 30, 2022

DIAL M FOR MURDER brings some modern touches, and a sly intelligence to this adaption, commissioned by The Old Globe.  A smart script, skillful and subtle performances, and some twists bring a new life to this classic murder mystery through August 28th.  

Interview: Nathan Darrow Talks About Bringing an Adaption of A Classic Murder Mystery to the Old Globe in DIAL M FOR MURDER
July 27, 2022

 Nathan Darrow stars as Tony Wendice, the married man who is convinced that his wife had an affair, and as his jealousy and obsession escalate so does the danger in The Old Globe'sworld premiere adaption of DIAL M FOR MURDER - playing through August 28th.

Interview: Olivia Valli Brings Vivian Ward and PRETTY WOMAN The Musical to Broadway San Diego
July 25, 2022

PRETTY WOMAN the musical brings the beloved rom-com to the stage with some updates and a musical twist, and a lot of love. Olivia Valli, talks about being able to bring the role of Vivian Ward and this show to the San Diego stage. PRETTY WOMAN is playing July 26th - 31st from Broadway San Diego at the San Diego Civic Theatre.