The Jocelyn Herbert Lecture
Walter Asmus: ‘The Art of Beckett’
Monday 29 June, 6-6.45pm, Lyttleton, National Theatre
Tickets: £4 (£3 concessions)

Walter Asmus. 2004 © The E.W. Scripps Co.
Walter Asmus. 2004 © The E.W. Scripps Co.

Samuel Beckett named the designer Jocelyn Herbert “my closest friend in England” and they worked together many times. The distinguished German director Walter Asmus will speak of his own renowned working relationship with Beckett, which began in the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in 1974 and led to their collaborations on productions in Europe and America. Asmus worked as an assistant director to Samuel Beckett on a total of nine shows and television productions between 1975 and 1986, and he has directed all of Samuel Beckett’s plays in productions that have toured the world.

Given Jocelyn Herbert’s close working relationship and deep friendship with Beckett, Asmus is a particularly appropriate lecturer. (more…)

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Music & Literature, No. 6.
Music & Literature, No. 6.

Music & Literature no. 6 champions the work of three artists poised to break through on the international stage: Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik, Ukrainian composer Victoria Polevá, and Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić.

An aura of almost legendary prestige surrounds the short life of Alejandra Pizarnik, who, though haunted by doubt and depression, left behind an oeuvre by turns searing, tragic, playful, and erotic. Her portfolio brings into English 100 pages of previously untranslated prose, diary entries, and letters, as well as appreciations from, among others, Enrique Vila-Matas and César Aira, who writes that Pizarnik “was not only a great poet, she was the greatest, and the last.”  (more…)

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath gave Route 66 its nickname. The iconic two-lane road that connects Chicago to Los Angeles was first dubbed the “Mother Road” by Steinbeck. “66 is the mother road, the road of flight,” he wrote, capturing the sense of hope and redemption families felt as they escaped the Dust Bowl states. [Source]

Thomas stayed in his room to read. He was sitting with his hands joined over his brow, his thumbs pressing against his hairline, so deep in concentration that he did not make a move when anyone opened the door. Those who came in thought he was pretending to read, seeing that the book was always open to the same page. He was reading. He was reading with unsurpassable meticulousness and attention. In relation to every symbol, he was in the position of the male praying mantis about to be devoured by the female. They looked at each other. The words, coming forth from the book which was taking on the power of life and death, exercised a gentle and peaceful attraction over the glance which played over them. Each of them, like a half-closed eye, admitted the excessively keen glance which in other circumstances it would not have tolerated. And so Thomas slipped toward these corridors, approaching them defenselessly until the moment he was perceived by the very quick of the word. Even this was not fearful, but rather an almost pleasant moment he would have wished to prolong. The reader contemplated this little spark of life joyfully, not doubting that he had awakened it. It was with pleasure that he saw himself in this eye looking at him. The pleasure in fact became very great. It became so great, so pitiless that he bore it with a sort of terror, and in the intolerable moment when he had stood forward without receiving from his interlocutor any sign of complicity, he perceived all the strangeness there was in being observed by a word as if by a living being, and not simply by one word, but by all the words that were in that word, by all those that went with it and in turn contained other words, like a procession of angels opening out into the infinite to the very eye of the absolute. Rather than withdraw from a text whose defenses were so strong, he pitted all his strength in the will to seize it, obstinately refusing to withdraw his glance and still thinking himself a profound reader, even when the words were already taking hold of him and beginning to read him.

— Maurice Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure

Rhys Tranter talks to the renowned Beckett actor and director
On 24 September 1977, Samuel Beckett wrote a letter to the American theatre director Alan Schneider. At the time, the playwright was in Berlin, busily rehearsing a production of Krapp’s Last Tape with the American actor Rick Cluchey: ‘Rick is an impressive Krapp’, Beckett confided. In future correspondence with Schneider, he would go on to convey similarly approving remarks. One comment in a letter from 1981 finds Beckett surmising: ‘Rick’s Krapp about right for me’. And, in another from 1982, he suggested that the actor’s strength derived from the ‘massive presence’ he emanates on stage.

(more…)