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Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby


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#1 steveatplays

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 09:56 PM

This is strange, lonely, and very very dark. Literally and metaphorically.

This doesn't feel like three plays by Samuel Beckett, but one play. One, one hour, one woman play.

In "Not I," the lights go out in the Royal Court main space and it's pitch black. The crack beneath my feet, which earlier emitted a sliver of light from a room below now emits no light. A floating mouth appears, teeth glistening white, as if lit from inside the mouth. The mouth jabbers at a furious pace, a female mouth, Irish accent, an irridescent firefly mouth, flying forwards and backwards and sideways. The mouth speaks so fast and furiously I can't follow a train of thought, but the speech is circular, returning to guilt and trauma, fury and religion. And then the firefly vanishes and I hear only a howling wind, perhaps in a tunnel.

In "Footfalls," a dimly lit woman shrouded in white paces from centre stage to right and back again, speaking to her unseen mother. The themes, the guilt, the traumas and ghosts, sound like they are the same concerns of the disembodied mouth. The ghostly woman in white lip-syncs the disembodied mother's voice, eventually taking over from the mother entirely. The mother's voice is Dwan's voice, the ghost is talking to herself. A bell continually tolls to restart the ghostly pacing, but at the end, when the bell tolls, the woman is gone.

In "Rockaby," the woman is now in dressed in black. She mostly listens to her own disembodied voice as she rocks. Her concerns are similar to the concerns of the electric mouth and the woman in white before, except she's slowing down until. . .

This is a compelling and very strange night of theatre. Almostly completely dark, it's like your own lonely soul seeking to tie up some loose end at the bitter end of life and beyond. This play feels like dying.

Lisa Dwan is remarkable, when you see her and when you don't. You won't get much of a plot from this, and you make of the monologues whatever you will, but this felt very unique and different, lonely and dark. Knowing that Beckett did some of this with Billie Whitelaw at the Royal Court only made this feel even more haunting. 5 stars.




#2 Schuttep

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 11:07 AM

A wonderful summary and critique. I agree with you that it was marvellous and well worth seeing. If we ever get the chance to see these again, it couldn't possibly be performed as well.
If I listed every show I'd seen since 1974 I'd get RSI.

Favourite Musicals: Blood Brothers; Brigadoon; Chicago; Chess; Chorus Line; Company; Evita; Follies; Godspell; Les Miserables; Little Night Music; Little Shop of Horrors; Mack and Mabel; Man of La Mancha; Merrily We Roll Along; Miss Saigon; Phantom of the Opera; Rent; Rocky Horror Show; South Pacific.

Favourite Plays: Beautiful Thing; Bent; Blithe Spirit; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Cherry Orchard; Dance of Death; Death of a Salesman; Endgame; Happy Days; Hedda Gabler; Henry IV (Parts I and II); Importance of Being Earnest; Little Foxes; Mother Courage; Private Lives; Shirley Valentine; Torch Song Trilogy; What the Butler Saw; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Wild Duck.

#3 Nicholas

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 11:17 PM

Brilliant write-up – maybe I’m wrong but you don’t seem to give five stars very often, even to shows you rave about, so it’s quite something.

I saw Not I at the Royal Court last year and must admit that if in 2013 I made a best actor/actress shortlist Lisa Dwan would be on there for ten minutes of acting.  Footfalls is the one that, at the time, I thought was the least good and yet it’s the one I’m most struggling to stop thinking about and trying to come to terms with.  Rockaby has drained my soul and I don’t want to talk about it.  Much more than The El Train these are plays that belong together.  I’m really not sure what to make of these, but I can tell you this – I really enjoyed it as a piece of theatre and an experience (the darkness is genuinely unbelievable), I was able to follow it and appreciate it and I won’t sleep because of it.  There is something about being in the darkness with this poetic inanity, this confusing melange of sounds and thoughts and semi-sights and darkness that is, as you say, like dying, only wholly spiritually, not at all physically.  Oh, the darkness, and frankly when Dwan came on stage and spoke it became darker.  But still, wholly recommended.  You won’t see it again any time soon, so see it.  Lisa Dwan is hopefully eligible for awards because she deserves three.

#4 steveatplays

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 11:51 PM

View PostNicholas, on 13 January 2014 - 11:17 PM, said:

Brilliant write-up – maybe I’m wrong but you don’t seem to give five stars very often, even to shows you rave about, so it’s quite something.

I saw Not I at the Royal Court last year and must admit that if in 2013 I made a best actor/actress shortlist Lisa Dwan would be on there for ten minutes of acting.  Footfalls is the one that, at the time, I thought was the least good and yet it’s the one I’m most struggling to stop thinking about and trying to come to terms with.  Rockaby has drained my soul and I don’t want to talk about it.  Much more than The El Train these are plays that belong together.  I’m really not sure what to make of these, but I can tell you this – I really enjoyed it as a piece of theatre and an experience (the darkness is genuinely unbelievable), I was able to follow it and appreciate it and I won’t sleep because of it.  There is something about being in the darkness with this poetic inanity, this confusing melange of sounds and thoughts and semi-sights and darkness that is, as you say, like dying, only wholly spiritually, not at all physically.  Oh, the darkness, and frankly when Dwan came on stage and spoke it became darker.  But still, wholly recommended.  You won’t see it again any time soon, so see it.  Lisa Dwan is hopefully eligible for awards because she deserves three.

Nicholas,

I agree with what you say about Lisa Dwan deserving recognition. If anyone likes Beckett, and wants to see these three plays, I believe they will never see them done better.

And while I am very easily pleased, and tend to enjoy nearly every production I go to, for me, a 5 star production is exactly that: a production that you don't think you'll ever see done better. :)

#5 Honoured Guest

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 12:02 AM

Parsley may be about to say:

Quote


Dark.

Dark. Except.

Dark. Except for a light.

My light. From my screen.

Light as I post how I am so bored.

So bored to death in the dark.

Dark. Except for a light.

My light. From my screen.

This is NOT the right play for this theatre.

Well, not right for ME in this theatre.

It's just too.

Dark.

Dark. Except.

Dark. Except for a light.

Light. Less light. Low battery.

Dark.


#6 Parsley

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 12:32 AM

Quote


Dark.

Dark. Except.

Dark. Except for a light.

My light. From my screen.

Light as I post how I am so bored.

So bored to death in the dark.

Dark. Except for a light.

My light. From my screen.

This is NOT the right play for this theatre.

Well, not right for ME in this theatre.

It's just too.

Dark.

Dark. Except.

Dark. Except for a light.

Light. Less light. Low battery.

Dark.



LOVE IT LOVE IT

DANCING ABOUT LIKE A CRAZED IMP READING IT!!

#7 DrP

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 06:53 AM

Boring health and safety type question, but how are they allowed to switch off emergency exit signs etc for this?

Went last night - plays not for me, but was fascinated to sit in proper pitch darkness. It very rarely happens as there's usually some stipulation to have an exit sign or similar.

#8 xanderl

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 07:44 AM

Possibly they had ushers standing covering the exit signs with a board - I've seen this done at the Donmar (eg for certain sequences in The Night Alive), they can then move immediately in an emergency.
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage

#9 DrP

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 08:34 AM

Interesting.

#10 Mrs Lovett's Meat Pie

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 08:47 AM

Pitch blackness in Duchess of Malfi at Sam Wanamaker for a couple of minutes too




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