Beckett Trilogy at White Light Festival

Conor Lovett Compels as Molloy, Malone and The Unnamable

By: - Nov 06, 2017

The Beckett Trilogy 
Gare St. Lazare Ireland
Conor Lovett, Actor
Judy Hagarty Lovett, Director 
Simon Bennison, Lighting Design
White Light Festival
Lincoln Center
The Duke Theater
New York, New York
November 5, 2017

Judy Hagerty Lovett of Gare St. Lazare, Ireland has worked for more than two decades to bring the novels of Samuel Beckett to the stage. They are magnificently delivered by Conor Lovett. 

It is difficult to understand the debate about the purpose of Beckett’s novels in Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable.  If in fact Beckett is talking about the nature of the written word, words come off sensationally well as they are spoken.

Molloy and Malone Dies were written after the Second World War and preceded Waiting for GodotThey feel like extended monologues.  The Unnamable followed Lucky’s famous monologue in Godot, in which he announces that all purpose focuses on ‘pensum’ or thinking.  

The struggles of writing are clear in all these pieces. Dramatizing the novels may suggest that Beckett meant them as 'life at the time' they are delivered live.  Lovett treats them this way.  Yet, rather than sensing them as a denial of the written word, we experience them as poetry. 

In Malone Dies, Lovett beautifully intones: “I fear I must have fallen asleep again. In vain I grope. I can not find my exercise book.  But I will have my pencil in my hand. I shall have to wait for day to break.  (Look at the “long A” here. Hear it.)  God knows what I am going to do until then.  I have just written, I fear I must have fallen, etc.  I hope this is not too great a distortion of the truth.” 

If Beckett did not intend these novels to be spoken, and perhaps even performed, because that is surely what Lovett does, he in fact wrote words which can be well acted, or beautifully recited.  Even in Unnamable, which is constantly trying to locate itself, there is pleasure in words that disappear in air, and sometimes stick.  Commas expressed by halts make words into a list. There is an accumulation, not a stream.  In the undertow, one phrase often signals the next. We are pulled in.

Hagerty-Lovett speaks of the performance in a space which the performer and the audience inhabit together.  Lovett may be up close, but his gestures are that of an actor. His hands and face are lit by Simon Bennison to emphasize their whiteness. We focus on the hands as they move with the rhythm of the words and their meaning, when there is one and when meaning is absent.

The set is bare.  Backstage is swathed in deep red velvet, a small portion drawn back for exits and entrances.  The audience sits in highly-raked seating, bringing us close to the actor.

The effect is mesmerizing.  The first two pieces draw characters.  The third piece is about disintegration.  Earlier we hear, “I have always been sitting here in this self same spot with my hands on my knees, gazing before me like a great horn owl.” The hand that is supposed to be scribbling with a pen is mute. Now we hear, “Where now?”  “I can’t go on. I must go on.”  There is a longing for what is not.  

The verbal production feels like dramatic spontaneity. In Lovett’s hands, we as the other, the different, dangle in our state of otherness.  This is a tantalizing position for an audience.  See Lovett wherever you can.

With Beckett, we enter a black hole as far from church chancels as we could be. White Light Festival celebrates Beckett as part of its theme of faith. The range of events has been as startling as it is moving.