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Beckett's Radio Plays


10 – 16 April, RTÉ Radio 1

RTÉ Radio 1 in association with Gare St Lazare Players Ireland will broadcast Beckett’s seven radio plays. Directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett and produced for RTÉ by Aidan Mathews, the plays feature Ally Ní Chiaráin, Denis Conway, John Kavanagh, David Kelly, Conor Lovett, Louis Lovett, Anna Manahan, Mark O’Regan, Annie Ryan, Catherine Walsh and Michael West. Original music for Cascando, Words and Music and Rough For Radio 1 has been composed by Paul Clark.

10 April            7.02 pm         Embers
11 April            7.02pm          Words and Music
12 April            7.02pm            Rough For Radio 1
13 April            8.15pm          Rough For Radio 2
14 April            7.02pm            Cascando
15 April            7.02pm          The Old Tune
16 April            8.02pm            All That Fall

Henry sits on the strand, tormented by the sound of the sea. He talks to his drowned father, who doesn't answer, and to his wife, Ada, who does. Throughout it all the sound of the sea weaves in and out, almost like a third character. Though Embers was written in 1958-1959, in 1986 Samuel Beckett could describe the location, Killiney Beach, near the Foxrock house in which he spent his youth, and the sound of the sea with exacting detail.

Anna Ryan features in RTÉ Radio 1’s production of Beckett’s Radio Plays

Words and Music was written by Samuel Beckett in 1962. In this piece, two characters entitled Words (or Bob) and Music (Joe) work together and against each other in order to produce songs, musical interludes, and lyric poetry. To some extent, they are led by a third character, Croak, who, as the name suggests, exists somewhere in between sound and sense. The lyrical nature of this short piece ranges from the melancholic to the gently comic.

This play is often understood as being "about" the agonizing difficulties of the creative process itself.

(1961: published in English as Sketch for Radio Play, 1976)Rough for Radio I is a radio play that uses music to explore the isolation and confinement between a man and woman.

(1961: published in English as Rough for Radio in 1976)An Animator, assisted by a Stenographer and the whip wielding mute character, Dick, has the task of eliciting from Fox some unknown testimony of unknown significance. If it could but be achieved then "tomorrow, who knows, we may be free!".

In this play, an Opener "opens" and "closes" two characters: Voice desperately promises "this time" to tell a story he can finish; and Music equally struggles to create a finished composition. The play increases in intensity but you'll have to tune in to RTÉ Radio 1 to find out if they manage to finish or not.

The Old Tune is not an original work by Samuel Beckett. It is an adaptation or what  could perhaps be best described as the transfer of the original, a radio play entitled La Manivelle by Robert Pinget (*1919), into an Irish idiom.
The characters, Cream and Gorman contradict each other continually: Their respective memories of people and incidents are widely diverging, and their efforts to explain away, clear up or at least reduce the differences in their remembrances of things past make up the body of this short play. If one were to isolate a theme it would probably be the unreliability and the progressive decline of human memory with age.

Samuel Beckett's first radio play is full of Irish humour and pathos. In it, Maddy Rooney, seventy years old, "two hundred pounds of unhealty fat", makes her laborious way to the Boghill railroad station to meet her blind husband, Dan, as a surprise for him on his birthday. Along the way she meets a comic array of Irish characters. On the retum home, deluged by neighbourhood children and by rain, they keep their spirits up with a lively banter, sometimes savage, sometimes heart rendering.

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