Theatre: Between the lines

`Samuel Beckett's Happy Days reminds the actress and comedian Rebecca Front of university and other unavoidably grim aspects of life

I stumbled on Samuel Beckett by chance really. I was quite a morbid child. When I was a teenager, I'd seen clips of Billie Whitelaw on television doing bits of Beckett plays, and I was fascinated by the visual images: a mouth just suspended in mid-air in Not I, Winnie buried up to her waist in sand in Happy Days. It was only when I read Happy Days at university and played Winnie that I realised just how funny Beckett is. I don't know if that's a very Jewish reaction or what. But I've always found the Reggie Perrin kind of scenario very funny: desperate man leaves clothes on beach and is presumed drowned - and it's comedy.

Happy Days has meant a lot to me since that first reading. It's about an old woman losing control of her life, trying to impose rituals on her existence as a terrible way of getting on top of things again. Even as a student, that seemed a very comprehensible thing. Add to that the fact that I'm claustrophobic (I'll never take the Tube or get in a lift) and a complete control freak, and you can see the appeal. Above all, Happy Days always reminds me of the rehearsal process: the way you go over and over the words time and time again; the way you think you have control but never do.

n Rebecca Front is in Stephen Sondheim's `Company' at the Albery, London WC2 (0171-369 1730)

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