We started today’s session with a quick recap on all the playwrights we had looked at so far, as well as testing our knowledge of other well known plays, playwrights and the dates they were writing. We were each given a timeline listing the names of various plays or playwrights in chronological order of publication, opposite there were blank spaces for us to fill in the missing information. We were put in pairs for this task, I was paired with Daytona who has only recently joined the course and therefore did not have a great deal of knowledge in this area, however I am hoping I was able to help her catch up on the basic and most important areas. Luckily, I was able to match a great deal of the plays and playwrights quite quickly, however I found it harder filling in the blank spaces when it relied solely on knowing the dates rather than the plays or who wrote them! Although Erica tried to test up by putting names of plays that we had not studied as a group, actually surprised myself at being able to answer a few of the more modern writers such as ‘Breathing Corpses’ by Laura Wade as she is in fact one of my favourite contemporary playwrights. Nonetheless, these were some playwrights that I was not familiar with as I had never come across them before, for example, I had never heard of Sean O’Casey, and yet I am certain I have heard of the play name ‘The Plough and the Stars’.
Once we had talked through our responses and confirmed the correct order of the timeline and how the playwrights each fit into the picture we moved on to our next playwright which was Samuel Beckett. Erica asked us all if any one knew anything about Beckett and I was able to explain that he was the writer of ‘Waiting for Godot’ which is an extremely famous play that is well known for being a fairly static story where not a great deal happens other than the character waiting for someone who may or may not turn up for the entirety of the piece. I also was able to share with the group that the play is viewed by lots of scholars as a very intellectual, philosophical study on life and the point of living; however this is not at all what Beckett had anticipated when writing the play text, rather academics had over analysed the concept.
Samuel Beckett was born in Ireland on 13th April 1906 and died 22nd December 1989 in Paris after moving there just before the second world war. Like Oscar Wilde, Beckett attended Portora Royal School and like Harold Pinter, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Some of Beckett’s writings include:
- Endgame (1957)
- Happy Days (1960)
- Eh Joe (1965)
- Footfalls (1975)
- Catastrophe (1982) (2)
Coincidentally, the play we focused on for this session was in fact ‘Waiting For Godot’ (written in 1957) – which I was not initially ecstatic about as when I had read the play in my own time in the past I had found it very arduous and difficult to concentrate on and follow.
We split the chosen extracts of the script into sections and then read these between us in chronological order; once again when reading through the sections I found it rather dull and stagnant which made it difficult to hold focus and follow the conversations properly. Despite this, once we had gotten the script on its feet and started working on it in our pairs I started to understand the point of it more and the text started to come to life and felt like an actual conversation and train of thought rather than a mass of long silences and random interjections. In fact in the extract Josh and I were working on there were some potentially comedic and touching moments within the text that made the characters have more of a human quality about them.
In mine and Josh’s section of the play the text invited the opportunity to play around with the pace and dynamic of the dialogue instead of sticking with the long and stagnant feel of lots of the other moments. I really enjoyed doing this and I felt it bought a greater chemistry and connection between Estragon and Vladimir and demonstrated the shifts in status and power in the scene. When watching the other pairs perform and even when reading the script for the first time, it appeared that Vladimir (Josh) had the most power and higher ground in the scenes and due to Estragon’s lazier and more passive personality he was often portrayed as having little power or status – however, I feel that I was able to play around with this more to give Estragon more power at various points in the scene. For example, during the faster exchange of dialogue “‘like leaves ‘like sand'” etc I was able to give the impression of Estragon being more dominant by varying my tone of voice to a harsher, impatient sound. This was picked up in our feedback as being a highlight of the performance and that it made the text and characters come alive a lot more easily. As well as this the group and Erica stated that they liked the way we staged it, and that it really worked having them angled outwards and not always aiming their responses directly at each other as it reinforced the idea of the character merely ‘co-existing’ – this was a directorial decision of mine and I’m so glad it paid off and had the response I had in mind rather than making us just seem disengaged as actors.