Samuel Beckett and the Theater of the Absurd
exception. Hamm and Clov are not mobile; Hamm cannot stand and .. kinds of relationships in the play: the relationship between a master and his servant, a. "Hamm and Clov are also referred to as father and son; Hamm also refers or friend; any relationship goes through those different dynamics.". Beckett's absurdism and existentialist angst is on full display as Hamm recounts ( probably) his relationship with Clov. OTHER NEWS: Pizza.
The year-old draws on his love of visual art when he is acting or directing, something he still does semi-regularly with Melbourne theatre cooperative Stuck Pigs Squealing. For Clov, he'll be looking for images of what extreme physical labour does over time to peasants and factory workers.
In lateas he prepared to play the slave Lucky in Beckett's most famous play, Waiting for Godot, for the Sydney Theatre Company, Mullins looked at a lot of paintings of human suffering by Francis Bacon, Bruegel and Goya.
Mullins' intense physicality in the role earned him both a Helpmann and a Sydney Theatre Award. Mullins says awards for good work are nice, but: It's death to art to do that". On stage as Lucky, he sported waist-length white hair and a deathly pallor. With rope around his neck, he carried a heavy case, a folding stool, a picnic basket, and a greatcoat.
The whole time, while Lucky's whip-carrying master, Pozzo, called him Misery, scum and pig, Mullins' body swayed, as though he was dying standing up. Such physically demanding performances are dictated by Beckett's elaborate directions, says Mullins: Lucky speaks little, apart from one long monologue, so Mullins treated those physical stage directions as Lucky's lines. Physical directions will also be paramount for Clov, even though the character has much more dialogue.
Both Godot and Endgame, the latter especially, were written in response to the midth century catastrophes of Auschwitz and atomic bombs. Today, they might be read as allegories for global warming, or the maltreatment of refugees.
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Beckett believed Godot unfairly overshadowed Endgame. The irony is that Grandma is the only character who does say anything significant, but Mommy and Daddy, the people who discard her, are incapable of understanding her. In Ionesco's plays, this failure of communication often leads to even more drastic results.
Akin to the violence in Albee's Zoo Story, the professor in The Lesson must kill his student partly because she doesn't understand his communication. In The Chairs, the old people, needing to express their thoughts, address themselves to a mass of empty chairs which, as the play progresses, crowd all else off the stage. In Maid to Marry, communication is so bad that the maid, when she appears on the stage, turns out to be a rather homely man.
And ultimately in Rhinoceros, the inability to communicate causes an entire race of so-called rational human beings to be metamorphosed into a herd of rhinoceroses, thereby abandoning all hopes of language as a means of communication. In Adamov's Professor Taranne, the professor, in spite of all his desperate attempts, is unable to get people to acknowledge his identity because there is no communication.
Likewise, Pinter's plays show individuals grouped on the stage, but each person fails to achieve any degree of effective communication. This concern with communication is finally carried to its illogical extreme in two works: And even without dialogue, all the action on the stage suggests the inability of man to communicate. Beckett's characters are tied together by a fear of being left entirely alone, and they therefore cling to one last hope of establishing some kind of communication.
His plays give the impression that man is totally lost in a disintegrating society, or, as in Endgame, that man is left alone after society has disintegrated.
In Waiting for Godot, two derelicts are seen conversing in a repetitive, strangely fragmented dialogue that possesses an illusory, haunting effect, while they are waiting for Godot, a vague, never-defined being who will bring them some communication about — what? An impetus for living? A reason for dying? No one knows, and the safest thing to say is that the two are probably waiting for someone or something which will give them an impetus to continue living or, at least, something which will give meaning and direction to their lives.
As Beckett clearly demonstrates, those who rush hither and yon in search of meaning find it no quicker than those who sit and wait. The "meaning" about life that these tramps hope for is never stated precisely. But Beckett never meant his play to be a "message play," in which one character would deliver a "message. Everyone leaves the theater with the knowledge that these tramps are strangely tied to one another; even though they bicker and fight, and even though they have exhausted all conversation notice that the second act is repetitive and almost identical — the loneliness and weakness in each calls out to the other, and they are held by a mystical bond of interdependence.
In spite of this strange dependency, however, neither is able to communicate with the other. The other two characters, Pozzo and Lucky, are on a journey without any apparent goal and are symbolically tied together.
One talks, the other says nothing. The waiting of Vladimir and Estragon and the journeying of Pozzo and Lucky offer themselves as contrasts of various activities in the modem world — all of which lead to no fruitful end; therefore, each pair is hopelessly alienated from the other pair.
For example, when Pozzo falls and yells for help, Vladimir and Estragon continue talking, although nothing is communicated in their dialogue; all is hopeless, or as Vladimir aphoristically replies to one of Estragon's long discourses, "We are all born mad. Their fumbling ineffectuality in their attempts at conversation seems to represent the ineptness of all mankind in its attempt at communication. And it rapidly becomes apparent that Vladimir and Estragon, as representatives of modern man, cannot formulate any cogent or useful resolution or action; and what is more pathetic, they cannot communicate their helpless longings to one another.
While failing to possess enough individualism to go their separate ways, they nevertheless are different enough to embrace most of our society. In the final analysis, their one positive gesture is their strength to wait. But man is, ultimately, terribly alone in his waiting.
Ionesco shows the same idea at the end of Rhinoceros when we see Berenger totally alone as a result, partly, of a failure in communication. Each dramatist, therefore, presents a critique of modern society by showing the total collapse of communication. The technique used is that of evolving a theme about communication by presenting a series of seemingly disjointed speeches.
The accumulative effect of these speeches is a devastating commentary on the failure of communication in modem society. In conjunction with the general attack on communication, the second aspect common to these dramatists is the lack of individuality encountered in modern civilization. Generally, the point seems to be that man does not know himself He has lost all sense of individualism and either functions isolated and alienated, or else finds himself lost amid repetition and conformity.
Jean Genet's play The Maids opens with the maid Claire playing the role of her employer while her sister Solange plays the role of Claire. Therefore, we have Claire referring to Solange as Claire.
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By the time the audience realizes that the two sisters are imitating someone else, each character has lost her individualism; therefore, when Claire later portrays Solange, who portrays the employer, and vice versa, we gradually realize that part of Genet's intent is to illustrate the total lack of individuality and, furthermore, to show that each character becomes vibrantly alive only when functioning in the image of another personality.
Other dramatists present their attack on society's destruction of individualism by different means, but the attack still has the same thematic intent. Albee is not concerned with individualizing his characters. They remain types and, as types, are seen at times in terms of extreme burlesque.
So, unlike Beckett's tramps, and more like Ionesco's characters, Albee's people are seen as Babbitt-like caricatures and satires on the "American Dream" type; the characters remain mannequins with no delineations. Likewise in Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, the Martins assume the roles of the Smiths and begin the play over because there is no distinction between the two sets of characters. Perhaps more than any of the other dramatists of the absurd, Ionesco has concerned himself almost exclusively with the failure of individualism, especially in his most famous play, Rhinoceros.
To repeat, in this play, our society today has emphasized conformity to such an extent and has rejected individualism so completely that Ionesco demonstrates with inverse logic how stupid it is not to conform with all society and be metamorphosed into a rhinoceros. This play aptly illustrates how two concerns of the absurdists — lack of communication and the lack of individualism — are combined, each to support the other.
Much of Ionesco's dialogue in this play seems to be the distilled essence of the commonplace. Then two rhinoceroses, then more. Ridiculous arguments then develop as to whether they are African or Asiatic rhinoceroses.
We soon learn that there is an epidemic of metamorphoses; everyone is changing into rhinoceroses. Soon only three individuals are left.
Suddenly it seems almost foolish not to become a rhinoceros. In the end, Berenger's sweetheart, Daisy, succumbs to the pressures of society, relinquishes her individualism, and joins the society of rhinoceroses — not because she wants to, but rather because she is afraid not to. She cannot revolt against society and remain a human being. Berenger is left alone, totally isolated with his individualism. And what good is his humanity in a world of rhinoceroses?
At first glance, it would seem obvious that Ionesco wishes to indicate the triumph of the individual, who, although caught in a society that has gone mad, refuses to surrender his sense of identity.
But if we look more closely, we see that Ionesco has no intention of leaving us on this hopeful and comforting note. In his last speech, Berenger makes it clear that his stand is rendered absurd. What does his humanity avail him in a world of beasts? Finally, he wishes that he also had changed; now it is too late. All he can do is feebly reassert his joy in being human.
His statement carries little conviction. This is how Ionesco deals with the haunting theme of the basic meaning and value of personal identity in relationship to society. If one depends entirely upon the society in which one lives for a sense of reality and identity, it is impossible to take a stand against that society without reducing oneself to nothingness in the process.
Berenger instinctively felt repelled by the tyranny that had sprung up around him, but he had no sense of identity that would have enabled him to combat this evil with anything resembling a positive force. Probably any action he could have taken would have led to eventual defeat, but defeat would have been infinitely preferable to the limbo in which he is finally consigned.
Ionesco has masterfully joined two themes: But unlike Beckett, who handles the same themes by presenting his characters as derelicts and outcasts from society, Ionesco's treatment seems even more devastating because he places them in the very middle of the society from which they are estranged.
Ultimately, the absurdity of man's condition is partially a result of his being compelled to exist without his individualism in a society which does not possess any degree of effective communication.
Essentially, therefore, the Theater of the Absurd is not a positive drama. It does not try to prove that man can exist in a meaningless world, as did Camus and Sartre, nor does it offer any solution; instead, it demonstrates the absurdity and illogicality of the world we live in.
Nothing is ever settled; there are no positive statements; no conclusions are ever reached, and what few actions there are have no meaning, particularly in relation to the action. That is, one action carries no more significance than does its opposite action.
For example, the man's tying his shoe in The Bald Soprano — a common occurrence — is magnified into a momentous act, while the appearance of rhinoceroses in the middle of a calm afternoon seems to be not at all consequential and evokes only the most trite and insignificant remarks.
Also, Pozzo and Lucky's frantic running and searching are no more important than Vladimir and Estragon's sitting and waiting.