Wednesday 24th January 2024
Location: Watergate Theatre, Parliament Street, Kilkenny. R95 D320
There has never been a biopic about Samuel Beckett and his remarkable life, and this ground-breaking film pivots around the 1969 Nobel Prize ceremony when he was awarded the prize for Literature.
Having been awarded £30,000 along with the Nobel Prize, an embarrassed Beckett simply wanted to be rid of the money, and the film revolves around the internal debate raging within Beckett as to which of the people in his life most deserve to be the financial beneficiaries of his shame.
Beckett lived a life of many parts: rebellious son of an austere mother, Parisian bon vivant, Resistance fighter, Nobel Prize-winning playwright, unfaithful husband, recluse, but despite all the adulation that came his way he was a man acutely aware of his own failings. We explore these different chapters of his life by having Beckett analyse his past with a representation of his own conscience.
With typical Beckettian surrealism we’ll see Sam literally climb the walls at the Nobel Prize ceremony to escape the limelight and flee to a place where, with his trademark deadpan humour, he spars with himself as he explores the most significant relationships of his life: with his mother May, his best friend Alfy, his mentor James Joyce, his wife Suzanne and his mistress Barbara.
Beckett weaves a compelling narrative of guilt and regret that begins with his oppressive home life in Dublin with his mother May, the reaction to which was a bohemian adventure in Paris working with his friend Alfy as a translator for the legendary Irish author James Joyce.
Joyce went from intimidating mentor to friend via a period of awkwardness caused by Sam’s spurning of his daughter Lucia’s unrequited affections. His rejection accelerated Lucia’s downward spiral and ultimately landed her in a mental institution.
Although Sam didn’t connect romantically with Lucia, it was in Paris where he met his decades-long partner and eventual wife Suzanne, who he got to know when she visited him in hospital after he had been stabbed by a pimp.
This precedes a tense period with the French resistance, whom Beckett helped pass messages under the noses of the Nazis, from whom he and Suzanne had a narrow escape. They fled to Provence and spent the rest of the war living a tough but peaceful existence in the countryside, while Sam’s best friend Alfy wasn’t so lucky. His capture and death in a concentration camp prompts yet more shame.
None of this can compare to the guilt occasioned by Beckett’s longstanding affair with a BBC employee, Barbara Bray, that causes irreparable damage to his marriage. Pouring salt in Suzanne’s still open wound, Beckett publicly dramatized their situation in the theatre as ‘Play’, his creative urges yet again causing turbulence in his rollercoaster life.
Suzanne had acted as the driving force promoting his career, and she remained by his side for the rest of his life despite his numerous infidelities, which were a source of bitterness and rancour. The thing both Sam and Suzanne feare