"Be again, be again”: The Gate’s Beckett Country

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The title of essay refers to the publication in 1986 by Eoin O’Brien of the photographic collection The Beckett Country, which contains archival photos of Dublin and its environs and landscape images by David Davison, and to the idea of an Irish-inflected Beckett country which the Gate Theatre, among other agents, has helped conjure and foment on the Dublin stage. I trace how these two ‘worlds’ – the Ireland of Beckett’s youth imaged in The Beckett Country, and the placeless scenography of the author’s drama – have become interrelated through the work of the Gate Theatre, most visibly in the programmes which accompanied productions during the 1990s of Godot, Happy Days and Krapp’s Last Tape.
This essay traces the emergence of this ‘Beckett country’, a place which is not the abstract, dislocated space normally associated with Beckett’s work, but one which has been shown to have real material roots and connections to specific Dublin landscapes. While interrogating how that sense of specificity may diminish the radical aesthetic fragmentation within Beckett’s corpus, the essay is primarily concerned with the material processes through which an imagined ‘Beckett country’ becomes a possibility. The construction of a ‘Beckett country’ involves varying responses to the drama of place in Beckett’s work and in his life, where place (specifically Ireland in this case, though other places are traceable in the work) has a spectral presence, taking up room, as Peter Boxall has it, in a sort of literary back room.
On the whole, a project like that of The Beckett Country, and the Gate’s Theatre’s embrace of the author’s drama can be lauded, as each seeks to rectify an erasure or lack of recognition of place within the work, yet it is necessary to interrogate the extent to which the processes of place recognition or recovery (sometimes called ‘greening’ in this context) also provide fertile ground for cultural practices which assimilate Beckett’s work to the logic of capitalist exchange. What O’Brien’s and the Gate’s work may show is how the ‘Beckett country’s’ material roots are also comprised of financial, technological and ideological entities. Various material agents, from the Gate itself to the Arts Council to corporations such as Aer Lingus have all helped breathe life into the narrative of the Irish Beckett. This brings a whole new meaning to the incorporation into Irish places of the spectral Beckettian corpus, an incorporation which also opens the work to the globalised culture market. It may be that there are several different Beckett countries, from O’Brien’s re-staging of Beckett’s memory-fictions in The Beckett Country, to le Brocquy’s iconic scenography, to a Dublin populated by less considered monuments of public commemoration - bridges and warships, for example. This essay enquires into what material roots all these might in fact share.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Gate Theatre, Dublin: Inspiration and Craft
EditorsDavid Clare, Des Lally, Patrick Lonergan
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherCarysfort Press
ISBN (Print)9781788746243
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Irish Theatre
  • theatre history
  • Samuel Beckett

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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