In my final journal I am going to focus mainly on three plays that for me are the most meaningful among all of them: Play, That Time and Quad. Along the following entries I am going to explore my own experiences as a spectator, director and actress in the respective plays. But also I would like to make a further excavation on what they meant for me, exploring my first and last impressions, how they affected me, my free interpretation, self-reflections and so on. Also I would like to conclude with a general point of view about the whole course, highlighting questions as what meant it for me and how helpful it was.
2.1 'Play' (28th October)
Two women and and a man are trapped in their respective urns showing only their heads. They speak fast, without emotion and looking straight ahead. The man, his wife and the mistress begin telling the stories of their life, and their own version of a love triangle which once occurred between them. A spotlight acts as a inquisitor making them speak and speak when it shines on their faces, and to stop when it goes out. As this continues, the characters become increasingly maddened by the light, and increasingly desperate to make it stop . This point of the play reminded me a children's game 'now you speak, now not, speak again!stop again!'. During my first excavation of the play I got the feeling that the characters once were tortured by each other, are now they are tortured by their situation. The fact that the play was repeated twice gave the impression that the characters have been saying the same words for an eternity, and will continue to do so until the light decides that they can stop. In a deep exploration I interpreted that they are in the purgatory condemned to be tortured by their past sins forever, yearning for the peace and the silence that they will never have. In this sense 'Play' reminds me the Dante's 'Purgatory', the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy, where the characters are doomed to repeat their sins time and time again living in a eternal torment.
Apart from reading the play I had the pleasure of performing it. Regarding to my experience as an actress I would like to highlight that when you have to performance a play everything changes, to be in the two sides of the coin (spectator and actress) give to you a different perspective of the play, in the sense that when you are an spectator you can just to relax yourself and enjoy it, but when you are the actor everything is under pressure. For me it was one of the hardest experiences of my degree because I am a very shy person and I had never performance a play before. The previous days of the final performance I was afraid because of the text, I really thought that we had to memorize all the speech and on top in English! But part of my fears went out when the director, Brad, told me that the speech would be projected on a screen. During the rehearsals I had a really good time with my classmates, I experienced several states of mood those days because we lived hard moments, mainly with the speed and pronunciation of the text, good moments with the nervous laugh of Jingwen (W2) and stressful moments with the candles that we first use instead of flashlights. I was all the time taking care of not burning my hair and I really sweated blood rehearsing the play. But after all I have to say that they were mainly funny moments.
The worst came the day of the performance, all my body was trembling because of the nerves. Once you are in the stage and you can feel all the eyes gazing at you like lions in the jungle waiting for your first words, but I was trying to convince myself saying to me 'if they can do it I can too!' And gradually you start your performance and when the play advances you can feel more comfortable and even you start to enjoy it. But if I am honest once the performance finished I thought 'What a relief!'. In spite of this it was a really nice experience that I would like to repeat soon and it helped me a lot to gain confidence. Now I think that it is curious how Beckett through his plays provokes the actor in the same way that he does with the spectator arousing in him/her confusion, feelings and provoking him/her, in one word nobody remains indifferent to his plays. I really could feel as a I was within an urn and the powerless of being for the eternity tortured to live repeatedly the same speech and the same situation. In my case not in the purgatory, but in the performance of the play that for me as a shy person was eternal as well.
2.2 'Quad' (4th November)
Four persons run coordinated in a stage, they wear colourful clothes (green, red, blue and white) and they are guiding by instrumental sounds that supply the lack of dialogue in this mute play. My first impression about this was: 'They are like animals caged in a little space'. They often approach the centre of the stage, which they avoid all the time touching as they were in a danger zone and for not causing a collision. This evokes me a big city, for instance New York, where always there are many different people (colours) that walk as they were in their own world (own sound). Besides it provoked me a reminiscence to my childhood, when I used to play to the famous game 'Parch's' (ludo). In the play the actors have each one a different colour and they run in a quadrilateral stage trying to avoid each other for not colliding. In the game we have also four counters of different colour that avoid to coincide in the same square for not being 'taken' in a quadrilateral board. When you play the dices means that the game starts in the same way that in the play when they switch on the lights the actors start to walk. This simile made think they are as counters in the Beckett's play, having the title two different connotations in my mind, play as a game and play as a work.
I would like to stand out the colour of the customs that they wore. What this mean? What each colour represent? Moods? Feelings? Maybe green as hope, white as innocence and pureness, red as passion or violence and blue as stillness or sadness. All these thoughts were running through my mind meanwhile I was trying to find them a sense, but suddenly the instrumental racket played again creating a disorder in my mind at the same time that they were creating order in the play guiding each actor in his path. But once again I tried to depict what they represented to me, and excavating I concluded that they could be states of mind interacting among themselves, I mean states of mind trying not to collide among them for avoiding the madness or chaos, as in the mind of a person, as in my mind several minutes ago.
I found interesting the combination of the sound and light, which seemed to recreate the genesis: the moment of light (lamps) is the moment of creation (actor's motion) and before creation there was only darkness. I can say also that 'Quad' is a play with no words, then motion, sound and light are its unique language. But I think that sometimes the visual image is more important than the verbal aspects, therefore as an spectator of 'Quad' I could appreciate the real meaning of the set phrase 'sometimes an image speaks more than words'.
2.3 'That Time' (25th November)
The only thing seen on stage is a face and the only things heard are three voices A, B and C. The voices represent the same person at different stages of his life. 'A' represents the person in middle, voice 'B' in his childhood, and voice 'C' an old age person. One of the free interpretations that I had about the play is that the listener is dreaming. He opens and closes his eyes several times during the play according to the rhythm of the voices and this can be related to the dreaming action. In this sense the voices can be the dream-consciousness and only when he opens his eyes the voices stop as when you are dreaming only when you wake up the dream is over. The deep breath also could represent the breath of a person who is sleeping, a deep and slow breath. Likewise the smile at the end of the play was quite contradictory, but I guess that he smiles because the three nightmares about being abandoned were over. This is as relief for him, as if all the thoughts about being alone disappeared.
With the use of the stream-of-consciousness technique during the play I really felt into the core of human consciousness and I could feel one of man's most extreme fears, the fear of nothingness, of never being able to recreate "That Time" again. In this point I would like to compare in this sense 'That Time' with the famous work of James Joyce Ulysses. As we enter the world of Ulysses, we look through Stephen's eyes. We are inside of his mind and we feel all his thoughts. The author portrays a character's continuing 'stream' of thoughts as they occur, no matter if they make sense or whether the next thought in a sequence relates to the previous thought. Also another point in common is the lack of punctuation both in 'That Time' and also in the last chapter of the novel, consisting of eight long paragraphs, Joyce omits punctuation. In my opinion this can be used to create an uninterrupted flow of thoughts. These lines were just an exploration of my impressions about the play, but what I really want to discuss in this entry is my experience as a director on it.
'That time' was the first play that I have directed. After several readings of the play we realized that in each voice's speech there was a word or a phrase that could be connected in some way with the next voice's speech, both form or meaning, for instance 'slab-stone' or alliteration such as 'someone's folly- Foley was it Foley's Folly'. So we decided to do a pun with it. For that reason we projected on the screen these 'connected words' in order to emphasize them and with the purpose to provoke in the spectator a self-reflection about their meaning in the play. Regarding to the sound we tried to create an 'echo' effect with the voices. I mean, as they can be considered as the subconsciousness of the listener is supposed that they had to sound as they came from the deepest place of our mind. So we decided to locate the actors behind the audience to create a sense of remoteness. With the light we had more problems because we thought that it would be better to use a yellow flashlight for making the stage warmer and intimate, but all the flashlights that we got had a white light. So until the very last moment of the performance we hadn't one of the indispensable objects for the play. They were minutes of tension but finally and ironically we got the same flashlight that I used for my performance in 'Play'. With my limited skills on English language it was quite complicated to direct and express my own ideas to the actors and sometimes they frowned at me wondering 'What is she saying?'. Now I remember that and I laugh but at the moment I felt really powerless. However it is curious to see how through the intrinsic Beckett's plays we could understand each other. Fortunately the stage design of our play didn't entail too much problems, but taking into account the limitations of space, costume, light and inexperience of the actors I applause the others in their respective roles as directors since it can be an arduous task.
3. Further assumptions
Along the three plays I also found some features that could relate them and that I would like to explore in the following lines.
3.1 Light and Dark
The light has an important role in these three Beckett's plays. In the three plays I realized that one of the most common pattern consists in lighting just one part of the stage leaving all the rest surrounded by darkness. Maybe it can evoke that the character that is in the illuminated space is alive, as we saw in 'Krapp's Last Tape' in which the light and the darkness were used metaphorically to symbolize the space of the life and the space of the death. In this way in 'Quad' as I explained before the use of the light can be related with Genesis, the light as the creation, as the moment of life, and the darkness as the moment of death. However in 'Play' the darkness represent the death in itself as the three characters are already dead in the purgatory, the light in this case acts as an inquisitor. It has in negative connotations because the characters speak under the pressure of the light, it bothers them, the light blinds them in the same way that they are 'blinded' by their respective monologues. They only want darkness, so ironically darkness here has positive connotations, it represents peace, silence. However in 'That Time' I think that the light is not the representation of the death and the life, I think that it is more a representation of the present and past, the present (the listener) is light, the past (voices) is dark, maybe for creating the effect of being in the head of the listener at all. Furthermore the light is the motor that generates all the action in the three plays. When the light is switch on in 'Quad' each character start to walk, in 'Play' each character start to speak and finally in 'That Time' the play itself starts. Therefore combination between light and dark in Beckett's plays is a relevant theme.
3.2 Language and communication
I think that language and communication also have several interesting patterns in the three plays that I would like to explore. In 'Play' for instance the characters unify and separate their speeches repeating the same routine eternally. This brief encounter of the words mark a vocal elevation in a choral way, musical synchronized and as a consequence an increasing of the semantic confusion. Likewise in 'Quad' the instruments unify and separate themselves repeating the same routine and creating in this way sound confusion. As a consequence I felt really confused with both plays. 'Play' is the best example of incommunication (speak without listen). The three characters keep talking more and more, but nobody answered them, they are effusively speaking among them but the lack of communication is evident. Ironically the own language of the play prevents the communication. In 'Quad' the theme of incommunication is present in all the play, the characters are scared about their proximity among them as they were negative and positive poles who repeals and at the same time attract each other. Preventing in this way any attempt to communicate with the others. Therefore in this play only the visual and sound effects have the power to communicate as I explored before in the 'Quad' entry..
Then we are moving from 'the all' to 'the nothing', I mean we are moving from 'Play' a play, if you'll forgive the repetition, that is full of insatiable external monologues and in which the verbal language flows through the whole play effusively to 'That Time' a play with internal monologues, without oral gesticulation and the communication between consciousness and oneself to finish with 'Quad' a play with total lack of oral language and also communication among their characters, but full of sound and visual language.
I have already commented before about the experience of being a director (that time) and an actress (Play), hence I would like to comment also my experience as an spectator. I have to say that I really enjoyed the plays. It is fascinating to see how mere classmates can performance one play almost as a professional actors. It was admirable the way that they could learn the script and performance the plays without a feeling of nervousness in their faces. Most of them had previous experience in the theatre but I want to say that those who hadn't experience were at the same level than the others. Nobody showed stage fright, but I know that the appearances can be deceptive and it is admirable how they could dissimulate their nerves. All of these things helped me a lot at the time of performance and direct my own plays during the course.
Therefore during the whole course I have analysed, commented, performance, directed and even acted the different plays of Samuel Beckett, a playwright totally unknown for me at the beginning of the semester. Now, after several months ago I realize that it was one of the most enriching courses of this semester in the sense that I got more confident at the time of speak in public, I learned a different way of exploring works and I knew a different way of making theatre, in which the verbal aspects are not the most important, in which sound, light, motion and silence paradoxically speaks more than the speech itself. I knew a new theatre, different from the typical stories with characters who have well definite roles, representing the role of a villain, a hero, a lover and so on located in a precise space-time coordinate. In his plays the sense about anything happens makes me to pay more attention to each and every word and minor detail. Now, after three months I can say that the experience of excavating several Beckett's plays in the phenomenological journal, both from different perspectives and manners, was a really satisfactory and successful way to come into contact with Samuel Beckett's work and mind.