(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/7.)
As the world that made Samuel Beckett who he was becomes magically apparent, the point of Dead Centre’s unusual approach begins to makes sense
Samuel Beckett’s chair swivels with restless energy as he types, the keys clacking out a new communiqué for the French Resistance.
It is 1942, in the small apartment in Paris that he shares with Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, his lover and future wife. Although Beckett is not yet the writer we know, whose bold experiments in form and figures would change the face of theatre forever, Paris under Nazi occupation already seems like a theatre of the absurd. “Listen to this,” Beckett tells Dechevaux-Dumesnil, whipping a fresh page from the rollers of the machine. “Did you know Jews are now forbidden to own bicycles?”
That Dechevaux-Dumesnil is dismayed is easy to see. “Poets shouldn’t play at being spies,” she tells him, dismayed by his insouciance.
“Of course we should,” Beckett responds. “We’re uniquely well qualified for the task. Condensing the world into lines that no one understands. I’ve been at it for years.”
You can see his point, even if you cannot see him. In Dead Centre’s eagerly awaited new production, Beckett’s Room, the swivelling chair is empty. There are no hands operating the typewriter. The page flies magically into the air, hovers there as the voice on our headphones reads its contents, and slips under the floorboards for safe-keeping. “Is there nothing in this house?” Dechevaux-Dumesnil complains, before a knife, that no-one holds, chops a carrot and turnip into slices. This is not such an easy question to answer.