Belfast Telegraph

Beckett trilogy review: Dwan lights up the darkness as she brings work to life

By Grania McFadden

Samuel Beckett's writing can be bleak, bare and bewildering - but there's a beauty there too - never more apparent then in Not I.

The audience at the Mac sits in total darkness, the only thing visible the spotlit mouth of actress Lisa Dwan high above the stage, talking in a torrent about loneliness and fear.

Beckett insisted on the piece being performed as a stream of consciousness, the words flowing like water over the audience.

Instead of straining to catch every sentence, it's best to sit back and bask in the musicality of it all – occasional phrases spring out at us, but the narrative is like a dream filled with memories: the narrator identifying herself as 'not I' but 'she'.

Dwan reappears as the middle-aged woman in Footfalls, pacing nine steps forward, nine steps back outside the room where her mother lies dying.

Here, the metronome precision of the footsteps provide a different sort of music, as they measure out a life.

The final piece, Rockaby, sees Dwan as an old woman in a rocking chair, listening to her own (recorded) voice talking through her actions at the day's end. Accompanied by the to and fro of the chair, it's a soothing, hypnotic lullaby for the lonely and dying, 'all eyes, all sighs', searching at the window for another living soul.

The woman calls for more when the chair stops, until this bedtime story ends forever.

Dwan, who worked with Beckett's muse Billie Whitelaw on the trilogy, gives an astonishing and intense performance. She gives body to her characters, who have battled through life to the bitter end. It's a tour de force, which realises all of Beckett's beauty and bile.

Highly recommended.

Four Stars

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