Peephole Art: Beckett for Television

Features definitive versions of Beckett’s recent works written or adapted for television. There are three additional works in The Beckett Project series produced by Global Village: What Where (1988/10 minutes), a video version of Beckett’s last play overseen by the playwright himself, Godot in San Quentin (1988/27 minutes), a fascinating version of Waiting For Godot, produced by inmates of this maximum-security prison, and Waiting for Beckett (1994/86 minutes), a unique television documentary on the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett, which includes a rare scene with the playwright critiquing a video performance of one of his plays.

01:24Copy video clip URL Video begins with a quotation from Beckett

01:49Copy video clip URL Title cards

01:56Copy video clip URL Scenes from the productions of Not I, Quad, and What Where.

03:59Copy video clip URL Chris O’Neill introduces the program in a theater, explaining that these are excerpts from plays written or adapted specifically for the screen. Beckett referred to this type of work as “Peephole Art,” because “it allows the viewer to see what was never meant to be seen.”

04:41Copy video clip URL O’Neill introduces Not I, including a brief explanation of the play and its production history, which was originally written for the theater despite the lead actor being shrouded entirely in darkness except for a small spotlight on her mouth.

06:28Copy video clip URL Not I: a monologue delivered by a mouth in extreme closeup, everything outside of the lips completely black. Starring Margo Lee Sherman, directed by Larry Sacharow.

19:42Copy video clip URL O’Neill introduces Film, a silent film starring Buster Keaton. Barney Rosset commissioned Beckett to create this screenplay and it was filmed in New York City.

20:49Copy video clip URL Film: A twenty-minute, silent film in which Keaton attempts to evade observation by an all-seeing eye. But, as the film is based around Bishop Berkeley’s principle ‘esse est percipi’ (to be is to be perceived), Keaton’s very existence conspires against his efforts. 

41:00Copy video clip URL O’Neill introduces Quad, a wordless play that one scholar has called “the purest piece of work that Beckett has ever done.”

41:47Copy video clip URL Quad: a wordless dance performed by figures whose bodies and faces are covered in monochromatic cloaks. The figures pace frenetically within and around a square, filmed from above to capture the patterns of their movements. Performed by the Suzanne Lek Dance Company.

47:13Copy video clip URL O’Neill shows a clip of Quad II, a black and white variation on Quad in which the movements are much slower and there is no music on the soundtrack.

49:46Copy video clip URL O’Neill introduces What Where, Beckett’s last published play. Onscreen text explains: “This television production of What Where was created over a period of eight months with Beckett acting as the ‘director.’ It is unique in that Beckett actively participated by viewing tapes brought to him in Paris by John Reilly & Barney Rosset. For Beckett this was the culmination of all his earlier television & stage productions of What Where.”

50:36Copy video clip URL What Where: faces in isolation arranged across the screen engage in an absurdist, mysterious interrogation. With Tom Luce, Morgan Upton, Richard Wagner, and Dave Peichert, directed by Stan Gontarski.

 58:02Copy video clip URL Credits



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