(Éilis Ní Anluain’s article appeared in the Irish Times, Sep 3, 2021; Photo: Bríd Ní Neachtain in Happy Days: the play’s theme, the need for everyone’s voice to be heard, takes on a new meaning when a major work is heard in the language of the people where it is performed. Photograph: Andrew Downes/Xposure.)
Beckett sa Chreig: Laethanta Sona/
Beckett in the Rock: Happy Days
Creig an Staic, Inis Oirr
Galway International Arts Festival
“Trompe-l’oeil backcloth to represent unbroken plain and sky receding to meet in far distance,” Samuel Beckett’s stage directions say. Here no backcloth to represent but the very thing. As Yeats told Synge to go to Aran, Beckett sa Chreig: Laethanta Sona/Beckett in the Rock: Happy Days, produced by Company SJ and directed by Sarah Jane Scaife, is immersed in the landscape and language of Inis Oírr.
Having assembled at Áras Éanna, the audience proceed together, walking between high stone walls, anticipation building, to see for ourselves the limestone mound already iconic from its image subtly reproduced in monochrome on a full page on the back of the programme notes.
Seated on blocks of stone placed in a chequerboard pattern, made by the island men who constructed the mound designed by Ger Clancy, we wait for Winnie to wake. No colour is specified for Winnie’s parasol. In this production it is red, like the skirts still generally worn by women on the island when this play was written.
Of Winnie’s dress we only see the low bodice, the fabric chosen by Sinéad Cuthbert for the rare flowers that grow in the fissures between the flagstones, on which and out of which the mound is constructed. Not the low mound of stage directions but just the right size, just the right slope, to make an impact on the landscape and to support Winnie, her head resting on her bare arms.
The play’s theme, the need for everyone’s voice to be heard, takes on a new meaning when a major work is heard in the language of the people where it is performed. The dialect, in Mícheál Ó Conghaile’s translation performed by Bríd Ní Neachtain, both of them from Connemara, soars. The everyday phrases echo and reverberate.