Beckett and Performance

Anna McMullan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent interest in genealogical criticism in Beckett Studies, fuelled by the reading notes that Beckett compiled in the 1920’s and 1930’s, has led to a particular focus on Beckett’s formative years, and on the intersections between his work, especially the novels and early criticism, and his intellectual reading. While this has produced much valuable and fascinating matrial, perhaps it is time to return to the works themselves, and especially, to the theatre. Having just published a book on Performing Embodiment in Samuel Beckett’s Drama (London, Routledge, 2010), I would like to develop further the area of presence and performance in Beckett’s theatre. Performance studies and phenomenology have offered new ways of approaching the ontology of performance in Beckett’s theatre, and I intend to analyze this, with particular reference to specific productions of Beckett’s plays. Firstly, I want to look at some of Beckett’s own comments about particular performances / productions (for example in the Barbara Bray correspondence, Trinity College Dublin), and, secondly, to analyze from the perspective / experience of an audience member a number of performances by (mainly Anglophone) ‘Beckett actors’, including Billie Whitelaw and David Warrilow. Drawing on recent discussions of presence and performance (Jane Goodall, Cormac Power), I will offer some reflections on the complexity of presence (of persona and performer, of body and voice) and its haunting power in performances of Beckett’s drama.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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