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Reviewed by:
  • The University of Victoria Beckett Festival
  • Kim S. Conner
The University of Victoria Beckett Festival. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. 3–5 May 1996.

Last May, the University of Victoria’s Department of Theatre hosted a three-day festival celebrating the theatre of Samuel Beckett. The keynote speaker was Stanley Gontarski, whose address entitled “Revising Himself: Samuel Beckett’s Self Collaborations” discussed the ongoing revisions the playwright made to his dramatic texts in light of their theatrical production, and how he made himself into a man of the theatre through his increasing involvement with productions of his work. Gontarski’s comments set the stage for the rest of the Festival, which included numerous performances and presentations: nine groups performed twenty-four live shows; three groups produced three radio dramas, repeated daily; four videos, including the rarely seen Film, were shown daily; and twenty-seven scholars presented papers on a wide variety of topics.

Festival organizers emphasized works that are infrequently seen, particularly the shorter dramatic works and pieces originally written for forms other than live theatre. Under the direction of the distinguished Shimon Levy, Switzerland’s Goetheanum Theatre performed (in German) Footfalls, Play, Catastrophe, and Not I. The Pantechnicon Theatre from Pomona College under the direction of Stephen Young brought their completely self-contained and transportable laboratory stage to perform Footfalls, A Piece of Monologue, and Not I on one bill, and Company and Rockaby on another.

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Figure 1.

Frederick Neumann in Mabou Mines’s adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho, directed by Neumann. The University of Victoria Beckett Festival. Photo: Heldor Schafer.

One of the highlights of the Festival was an adaptation of Worstward Ho, here masterfully directed and performed by Fred Neumann of New York’s Mabou Mines. As in so many Beckett pieces, the first few moments encapsulated the whole. The lights came up on stage, and the audience saw a grave freshly dug in the “ground,” from which clumps of dirt were being tossed. Out of this grave [End Page 238] then came a puppet-like shovel, from which a voice seemed to issue, followed by Neumann himself and a skeleton, which he treated with the casualness of an old friend, crossing its legs as if to make it comfortable, and propping it up just right so that it could gaze at him as he continued his monologue. When Neumann spoke of his “shades,” figures became visible, but so dimly and so otherworldly that they seemed suspended not only in space but in time. In this theatricalization, which Beckett suggested to Neumann, the imagined voice and evocations of the original prose text became materialized in real bodies and objects, located in actual space, making the performance a substantial revision of the original work.

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Figure 2.

John Krich as the title character in the University of Victoria Theatre Department’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Harvey Miller. Photo uncredited.

A benefit of the performance schedule was that some plays were performed by two different groups, thereby providing Festival delegates with an opportunity to see the same show refracted—revised and revisioned—through slightly different lenses. Catastrophe, for example, was also performed by a group from the University of British Columbia and directed by Stephen Malloy in a less overtly political manner than Levy’s production. Also notable in this regard were the two back-to-back perfor-mances of Krapp’s Last Tape. The first Krapp, produced by Victoria’s Theatre Department, was directed by Harvey Miller and featured the accomplished John Krich. The second was directed by Dickinson College’s Robert Hupp and featured Jean Cocteau Repertory Company member Lee Krich, who is John’s daughter.

Both directors used parts taken from both earlier and later versions of the script. In Miller’s production, the audience could see a dimly lit area upstage to which Krapp retreated when he wanted to drink or to retrieve various items, whereas Hupp’s production depended upon an earlier version of the script in which this area, and Krapp when in it, remain invisible. In this play, initially...

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