Samuel Beckett’s acting tip

During rehearsals for Endgame in London in 1964, Irish actor Jack MacGowran was wondering how best to deliver the line, “If I knew the combination of the safe, I’d kill you”.

He asked Beckett for advice; and the author, ever resistant to overinterpretation of his work, replied: “Just think that if you knew the combination of the safe, you would kill him.”

6 Responses to Samuel Beckett’s acting tip

  1. What better way to deliver a line than imagining just that! You’ve got to love the dear departed Sam B even if some of his work was a tad impenetrable!

  2. Stan says:

    Well said, Jams. Even if Beckett didn’t mean to be humorous with his directorial advice (presumably delivered deadpan), I think I’d have cracked up had I heard it.

  3. Fran says:

    The simple things are the best.

  4. Stan says:

    Sometimes they simply are, Fran.

  5. Claudia says:

    I’m sorry, Stan, but everytime I hear about Sammy, I laugh, remembering how the French Theatre group (I belonged to, in my youth) treated him. As I said, on Sean’s post: Happy 104th, Sam (April 13th,2010), we called him Le Somnifère. He was always so distressed. Hard for young people to think of life as absurb. Today, in my mature years, I have a bit more compassion for his misery. Sad though what he would think of his writing, “I could not have gone through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence”, (in a note to Deirdre Bair, whose Biography of Beckett, I’m presently reading.)

  6. Stan says:

    Claudia: Anyone who can get a laugh out of Beckett should carry on doing so. You’re right — a true sense of absurdity doesn’t come naturally to young people, but to older people who know something of becoming young again. It is sad that he was so unhappy, but then if he weren’t so, he would have been someone else. He wrote about misery and futility so powerfully, even in his notes! “A stain upon the silence” is a memorable phrase.

    Thanks for reminding me of your line: “Allume ta chandelle, Sammy.”

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