003 – Endgame, by Samuel Beckett
The stage is empty but for a single armchair and two dustbins. A sheet is draped over what appears to be a figure sitting in the chair. This is the famous opening tableaux of Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame. Endgame premiered in French at the Royal Court theatre in London in 1957, following on from Beckett’s breakthrough play Waiting for Godot, which four years earlier had shocked the dramatic world and defined an enduring notoriety for the playwright. The shorthand for Endgame is that two of the play’s characters inhabit dustbins, and the central character is blind and unable to move from his chair; in other words, another difficult, existential drama that challenges theatrical convention and our understanding. But it is also a play that can be very funny, as shown in the recent revival at the Old Vic in London starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming.
To explore the method, meaning and impact of Beckett’s startlingly original play, I am joined by Beckett expert, Dr Matthew McFrederick, Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading.
My conversation with Matt was recorded via video link during the early days of the lockdown for the Coronavirus.
En Attendant Godot
Festival D’Avignon 1978
This is a brief addendum to episode 3 on Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, extracted from the original conversation with Matt. This excerpt talks about Beckett’s early life, as well as where his first plays came from, including his breakthrough play Waiting for Godot.
Dr Matthew McFrederick
Matt is a theatre practitioner, historian and academic, originally from Northern Ireland. He is a Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading, where he completed his PhD investigating the production histories of Samuel Beckett’s drama in London.
In addition to teaching and publishing articles about the work of Samuel Beckett, his research interests include modern practices in directing and scenography, as well as contemporary British, Irish and Northern Irish playwriting.
The University of Reading is the home of the Samuel Beckett Research Centre, which includes the world-leading archive of Beckett material.
Matt recommended Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland.
We have footnotes for this episode …
These footnotes are a follow-up to our live discussion in episode three of the podcast, including a selection of points from my researches that we didn’t happen to include, as well as follow-up on any facts and questions that came up during our conversation with Matt. It also includes some additional audio that didn’t make the final cut, where Matt and I talked about Beckett’s early life, as well as where his first plays came from, including of course his breakthrough play Waiting for Godot.
BECOME A PATRON!
Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.
For details click here
Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.
You might also be interested in …
Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s is set in a truck-stop diner on the outskirts of Reading, Pennsylvania. This is no ordinary diner though, because the short-order cooks that make the sandwiches that the diner is famous for are all ex-cons. But the eponymous proprietor, Clyde, has not offered these characters a second chance out of the softness of her heart.
Lynn Nottage has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama twice, and as we record this episode the European preview of Clyde’s is on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in London. I am delighted to be joined by the show’s director Lynette Linton, who also directed Nottage’s last play Sweat at the same theatre in 2018.
The poet Percy Shelley called King Lear “the most perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing in the world”. It is a prodigious play in every sense. There are ten major roles, it has multiple significant plot lines, an elemental stormy setting, intense domestic conflict, and acts of war and violence which roll on with a propulsive tragic energy and conjure a challenging philosophical vision.
As we record this episode a new production directed by and starring Sir Kenneth Branagh arrives in London’s West End.
I am very pleased to be joined in this episode by Paul Prescott, who is an academic, writer and theatre practitioner specialising in Shakespearean drama.
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who works on the docks under Brooklyn Bridge. Eddie lives with his wife Beatrice and 17-year old niece, Catherine, whom they have cared for since she was a child. But Catherine is no longer a child, and her natural desire to pursue her own life will tragically rupture the lives of this family and the close-knit immigrant community of Red Hook.
As we record this episode a new production of A View from the Bridge is touring the UK, and I’m delighted to talk with its director, Holly Race Roughan, about this powerful play.