(Anthony Lane’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 9/29.)
The Irish actress Lisa Dwan first performed “Not I,” by Samuel Beckett, in 2005, and has returned to the fray many times. It is not a piece for the fainthearted. Recently, an audience member suffered a panic attack and had to leave halfway through the play, even though it lasts a matter of minutes, less than most theatres allow for intermission. All that can be seen from the auditorium is a single mouth, held in a spotlight and chattering without cease—or, at least, pausing only to shriek. New Yorkers may feel they can get that kind of thing for free on a daily basis, but Dwan, undaunted, is bringing “Not I” to town. BAM will put its money where her mouth is and stage the play—plus Beckett’s “Footfalls” and “Rockaby”—as part of a one-woman hour-long trilogy, from October 7th through October 12th.
Back in summer, on a hot bright morning, Dwan put “Not I” through its paces at the Royal Court Theatre, in London. “I do it three times a day for a month before it opens,” she said. A vertical board, eight feet high, was wheeled onto the stage. At head height was an oval gap, not unlike the openings through which customers at amusement parks used to poke their faces to be photographed. This was the unamusing kind, with the hole lined in black felt. “There’s still some blood around the edges,” Dwan said. “It cuts my ears.”