The Umwelt of Beckett’s Late Theatre: Play and 'Kilcool'



Rok publikování 2020
Druh Další prezentace na konferencích
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Filozofická fakulta

Popis While working on his production of Endgame in the Schiller Theater in 1967, Beckett outlined his view of theatre work to his production assistant Michael Haerdter: ‘One turns out a small world with its own laws, conducts the action as if upon a chessboard’ (qtd in McMillan and Fehsenfeld 1988, 231). Drawing on biologist Jacob von Uexku¨ll’s concept of the Umwelt as ‘an organism’s model of the world’ (Van Hulle 2014, 121), this paper uses Play and the ‘Kilcool’ fragments as two case studies in order to outline the characteristic creative environment of Beckett’s late theatre. Set on a stage shrouded in darkness, with three obscure figures immured up to their necks in grey urns, Play (1964) arguably marks a transition to Beckett’s ‘late style’ in theatre (Gontarski 1985). The Umwelt that the stage space enacts is reduced to a bare minimum, and the only mobile agent is the spotlight that prompts and cuts the nigh-on unintelligible speeches. The same year Play premiered in Germany (Spiel, 1963), Beckett composed the ‘Kilcool’ manuscript fragments, which set the terms for many of the key features of his late theatre: a spotlit face emitting a rapid monologue, with the rest of stage in darkness. Rosemary Pountney (1988) and S. E. Gontarski (1985) have linked these manuscript fragments to later plays such as Not I (1972) and That Time (1976). This paper will argue that Play and ‘Kilcool’ draw on Beckett’s experiences of working in other media and on the unique affordances of the proscenium stage space, giving shape to an Umwelt that will recur in his subsequent theatre work. The paper concludes by analysing how this very particular ‘model of the world’ laid the groundwork for later plays such as Footfalls and Rockaby.

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