For play

Play is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett. It was written between 1962 and 1963 and first produced in German as Spiel on 14th June 1963 at the Ulmer Theatre in Ulm-Donau, Germany, directed by Deryk Mendel, with Nancy Illig (W1), Sigfrid Pfeiffer (W2) and Gerhard Winter (M). The first performance in English was on 7th April 1964 at the Old Vic in London.

M: Looking for something. In my face. Some truth. In my eyes. Not even.
[Spot from M to W2. Laugh as before from W2 cut short as spot from her to M.]
M: Mere eye. No mind. Opening and shutting on me. Am I as much...
[Spot off. Blackout. Three seconds. Spot on M.] I much as... being seen?
[Spot off M. Blackout. Five seconds. Faint spots simultaneously on three faces. Three seconds. Voices faint largely unintelligible.]
W1: Yes, strange... darkness best... and the darker... the worse.
[Together] Yes, perhaps... a shade gone... I suppose... some might say.
M: Yes, peace... one assumed... all out... all the pain.

[Repeat play.]
M: [Closing repeat.] Am I as much as... being seen?
[Spot off M. Blackout. Five seconds. Strong spots simultaneously on three faces. Three seconds. Voices normal strength.]
The curtain rises on three identical grey funeral “urns”, about three feet tall by preference, arranged in a row facing the audience. They contain three stock characters. In the middle urn is a man (M). To his right is his wife (W1) or long-time partner. The third urn holds his mistress (W2). Their “faces are so lost to age and aspect as to seem almost part of the urns.”
At the beginning and end of the play, a spotlight picks out all three faces and all three characters recite their own lines, in what Beckett terms a "chorus"; the effect is unintelligible. In the main though the play is made up of short, occasionally fragmented sentences spoken in a “rapid tempo throughout which in his 1978 rehearsals helikened to a lawn mower – a burst of energy followed by a pause, a renewed burst followed by another pause.” Beckett wrote each part separately, then interspersed them, working over the proper breaks in the speeches for a long time before he was satisfied.


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