(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/18; Photo: Astonishing … Lisa Dwan in No’s Knife at the Old Vic in 2016. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian.)
Dwan will play Winnie in a 60th-anniversary revival of the play at Riverside Studios in London
It is, perhaps, the perfect play for lockdown, as the heroine fills the hours between “the bell for waking and the bell for sleep” with despair, defiance and memories of better times. The indomitable Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days is now to be portrayed by Lisa Dwan in a 60th-anniversary revival directed by Sir Trevor Nunn at Riverside Studios in London next year.
Despite its clear resonance with the pandemic, which has kept so many isolated at home, Nunn said his and Dwan’s plans for Happy Days predate the coronavirus outbreak. The pair first discussed it before collaborating on a triple bill of short Beckett plays at Jermyn Street theatre, staged in early 2020, for which Dwan lent her haunting voice to Eh Joe.
Nunn said the timing is apposite because the lockdown has left many of us looking back at our lives. “We have been remembering all sorts of happy times in our lives and that phrase [Happy Days] comes up always. We say it with delight and with sadness and with regret. Beckett’s title is very carefully chosen to include all of those ideas.” The great Irish playwright continually explored endurance, Nunn said, and his dramas probe “how we seek for meaning”.
Armed with a toothbrush, a revolver and a parasol, immersed in a mound of earth with her partner Willie behind her, Winnie is one of Beckett’s greatest creations. Ruth White originated the role in New York in 1961 and recent Winnies in the UK have included Juliet Stevenson at London’s Young Vic and Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.