Happy Days, Riverside Studios review: Lisa Dwan is buried alive in Beckett’s masterpiece

Trevor Nunn’s beautiful, deeply considered 60th-anniversary production offers a shock to the system in new and unforeseen ways

Paul Taylor
Sunday 20 June 2021 12:34
Comments
<p>Lisa Dwan as Winnie in ‘Happy Days’ </p>

Lisa Dwan as Winnie in ‘Happy Days’

Happy Days is the greatest show on earth – and under it, too. The sight of a middle-aged woman progressively entombed in scorched earth – up to the waist before the interval, up to the neck thereafter – has never lost its capacity to startle. And it never will.

Between the bell for waking and the bell for sleep, Winnie, the protagonist of Samuel Beckett’s hilaro-devastating stage masterpiece from 1961, prattles away in broad Irish (Beckett wrote it in French too – the jokes, to my ear, are less funny in that language). She is attempting to stave off the despair, hysteria, and rising panic she feels as the implications of her plight (pun incoming) gradually sink in. It is, like all Beckett’s stage work, a droll metaphor for theatre as an activity. The stage offers a symbol that is inexhaustibly elusive and ineffable – despite the play being about the exhaustibility of the planet’s resources. Happy Days now looks to have an overt green agenda, as do all Beckett’s post-apocalyptic imaginings (eg Endgame).

Trevor Nunn’s beautiful, deeply considered 60th-anniversary production offers a shock to the system in new and unforeseen ways. It stars Lisa Dwan, who, in the course of several years’ stringent (not to say nutty) devotion to Beckett’s genius, has turned herself into the prima donna assoluta of this branch of the interpretative arts.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in