Happy Days Beckett Festival 2015: Samuel Beckett play All That Fall to be performed in the dark

The play was written for radio and Beckett never conceived of it as working in any other medium

Simon O'Hagan
Thursday 16 April 2015 07:27 BST
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Michael Gambon and Dame Eileen Atkins in Beckett’s ‘All That Fall’ at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre in 2012
Michael Gambon and Dame Eileen Atkins in Beckett’s ‘All That Fall’ at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre in 2012

Samuel Beckett plays afford ample opportunity for wild experimentation but a possible first will occur at this year’s Happy Days Beckett Festival in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland when a production of the Irish dramatist’s All That Fall is staged in complete darkness.

All That Fall was written for radio in 1956 and Beckett never conceived of it as working in any other medium. So as staged productions go, it will be as true as possible to the spirit of the original.

“I had to explain to the Beckett estate what my vision for the production was before they would give us permission to do it,” director Max Stafford-Clark said at the festival’s launch in London. “And I told them that I had no vision at all.”

Mr Stafford-Clark said that lights would only come up at the end of the hour-long production, adding that he hoped audience members had not fallen asleep.

Nobel prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett (Getty)

The Happy Days Festival – now in its fourth year – is a key element in the evolution of Enniskillen and the surrounding area as a focus for literature. It builds on the heritage of a string of major names from both sides of the border, including Oscar Wilde, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats and Jonathan Swift.

Under artistic director Sean Doran, there are plans for a literature centre to be located at the Clinton Centre in Enniskillen, to which Bill Clinton gave his name when it was built on the site of the 1987 Remembrance Day bombing. A “pilot” Oscar Wilde festival takes place in Enniskillen next month.

Other highlights of the Happy Days Festival, which will run from 23 July to 2 August, include a production in German of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by the renowned Berliner Ensemble, making its first-ever visit to Ireland.

Notable for its atmospheric venues, including remote islands and underground caves, the festival will make use of the Necarne Equestrian Centre at the ruined Necarne Castle for a production of Benjamin Britten’s last vocal work, Phaedra. A short cantata for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra, it is being directed by Sophie Hunter, newly married to actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Ms Hunter’s Happy Days commitment comes only two months after she is due to give birth to the couple’s first baby in late May. “I have a very good team,” she said at the launch.

TS Eliot is the “artist in focus”, and The Four Quartets will be presented in two cycles, each poem being followed by one movement of a string quartet by Beethoven. Performances will take place in three of Enniskillen’s churches. There will also be a staging of The Waste Land, directed by Adrian Dunbar.

1960s TV comedy legend Tony Hancock will be presented in a Beckettian light when the actor Neil Pearson directs a stage production of Hancock’s Half Hour, based on several Hancock radio scripts discovered last year.

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