I’ve been exploring the work of Samuel Beckett recently, and came across some of his radio plays available online at openculture.com.
All That Fall (1957)
I was familiar with this one already via the staged production starring Eileen Atkins which I saw in 2012. I found it very moving; I did prefer the stage production as I like to be able to see things – I find it difficult to just sit and listen. All That Fall is the tale of an Irish housewife on the way to meet her blind husband off the train, and the people she meets along the way. In some ways it’s a very ordinary tale; in others it is extraordinary, with superbly Beckettian language and a great deal of pathos.
Embers is a monologue in which the sound of the sea features heavily. We are left wondering if the narrator, Henry, is really by the sea or if the events we are overhearing are happening inside his head. This is a lonely and powerful piece and the radio format really suits it.
Words and Music (1962)
I found two versions of this one. The YouTube link above, with Morton Feldman, is twice as long, possibly because of the extra music. The other, recorded by Theater For Your Mother in 1979, can be found on UbuWeb. It’s a very odd piece, made up of lots of strange noises in among the words (Joe – Joseph J. Casalini) and the music (Bob – Leslie Dalaba, Wayne Horvitz, Mark E. Miller, Frank Collison), which seemed like blues music to me.
This is another piece recorded by Theater For Your Mother using the same cast; you can access it on UbuWeb. Again it is really odd, with an exuberant voice and trumpets playing.
The Old Tune (1960)
The Old Tune is a bit different: it is a free translation of La Manivelle (The Crank) by Robert Pinget, a 1960 play that Beckett transposed to Ireland from France, turning Pinget’s Parisians into Dubliners. Jack MacGowran (Cream) and Patrick Magee (Gorman) star in this BBC recording from 1960, directed by Barbara Bray. It’s a poignant, often humorous piece that once again reveals Beckett’s flair for language.
If you’re a Beckett fan it’s definitely worth seeking out these works: they’re all different, entertaining and enlightening.