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Sunday 29 May 2016

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Abandoned Work finds worthy voice through witty wordsmith Frank Skinner

By Ian Patterson

Published 26/08/2013

Frank Skinner waves to the crowd at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival
Frank Skinner waves to the crowd at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival

ENNISKILLEN fame, Frank Skinner tells the audience in Samuel Beckett's former school Portora, reached him years before via Delaney's Donkey, sung by Val Doonican.

Even with Beckett on the menu, Skinner brings a light touch to proceedings.

"How many people here are actually Beckett fans and how many are here because they're avoiding Mass?"

Introducing Beckett's An Abandoned Work, Skinner remarked of the author: "I think he studies people that we usually try to ignore.

"To me, this story is a bit like stopping one of those people who you'd normally cross the road to avoid; those people with the slightly funny walk and the twitch ... and actually sitting them down and saying, tell me a bit about who you are."

This short prose piece recounted three days in the life of an old man walking from morning to night.

Though he's neurotic and given to fits of anger and dark thoughts, this isn't one of Beckett's bleaker works.

There's humour alright, particularly where the old man is attacked by a family of stoats.

Much of the humour, as Skinner succeeded in transmitting, lies in the manner of the reading.

It's also in the state of mind; as the old man of the story himself observed, "All is mental".

In the afternoon Skinner opened up to Peter Curran in front of a large audience. Curran stuck doggedly to the Beckett line of enquiry, but Skinner's world view is more expansive than Beckett's plays. He uses him as a launching pad to touch upon the original moon landing – which he slept through – marriage guidance, UFOs over Dudley, fatherhood, 18th century swearing, Jesus the celebrity and Fairport Convention – all with his customary razor-sharp wit and insight.

Like Beckett, Oscar Wilde and "the bloke who wrote Abide with Me", Skinner is truly a wordsmith.

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