Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Days

I read a couple good reviews of the production of Happy Days and I loved the production of Medea with Fiona Shaw and directed by Deborah Warner that was in New York a few years ago, so I figured I'd brave Beckett to see it (I'm totally intimidated by Beckett plays, you see).

I'm glad I decided to go, because it was wonderfully done. Much has been made of the set, which looks like the rubble of a bombed out city. It's a landscape in which it doesn't seem possible for life to survive. And you have to wonder, while watching, if the life there really is worth living. That question doesn't seem to be at the forefront for the determinedly cheerful Winnie. There's not much to do and her husband is barely a presence, yet she has developed a routine to stave off the tedium of her situation and maintains an absurd cheerfulness. There are moments when the difficulty of the situation becomes overwhelming, but these moments are quickly brushed aside.
Ah well, natural laws, natural laws, I suppose it's like everything else, it all depends on the creature you happen to be. All I can say is for my part is that for me they are not what they were when I was young and . . . foolish and . . . (faltering, head down) . . . beautiful . . . possibly . . . lovely . . . in a way . . . to look at. (Pause. Head up) Forgive me, Willie, sorrow keeps breaking in. (Normal voice.) Ah well what a joy in any case to know you are there, as usual, and perhaps awake, and perhaps taking all this in, some of all this, what a happy day for me . . . it will have been. (Pause.) So far.
Winnie's talking is a way to fill emptiness, to ward off the sorrow. It's only effective up to a point. The illusion can be maintained when Willie is present and visible to Winnie. But when deprived of human contact it collapses.

Shaw is a fantastic, at times manic, presence and carries a play that I imagine must depend almost entirely on its actress for success beautifully. For that alone, the play is worth seeing. But there are also brilliant lines and poignant moments and on the whole, I found it rather fascinating. I still find Beckett . . . forbidding, I guess. I'm not quite sure how to think of him. But I'd go to see more.

No comments: