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Samuel Beckett Festival and Symposium
April 1992, The Hague - The Netherlands

From 1 to 16 April 1992 the city of The Hague was immersed in the world created by Samuel Beckett. Over a period of two weeks, every cultural institution in the city centred its activities around Beckett's work. During this successful festival, an international audience was able to acquaint itself with the various ways in which Dutch and a great number of foreign artists dealt with the questions that Beckett's work still raises. In addition to the artistic festival an international symposium was held to enable people from the theatre and academic world to exchange views on Beckett.

In the 1980's, a new wave of Beckett productions flooded the Netherlands. There was Beckett in all shapes and sizes: for children, for opera goers, Beckett in dance, novels in performance, Krapp with videotape, Endgame with puppets: no holds were barred. At least not until Waiting for Godot was about to be put on stage in an all-female cast. Warned of their intention, Beckett put his foot down and insisted that his Vladimir and Estragon were men and should be played by men. The conflict became the immediate cause for the lengthy discussion about the author's moral right to his finished work. Is the author entitled to intervene if a production does not stick to the idea he had in mind when he wrote the play? The judge in the ensuing court case came down in favour of the actors, but the triumph turned into a defeat when Beckett subsequently withdrew all performing rights for his work in the Netherlands. 1988 until 1990 became a Beckett-less period hit in The Netherlands.

In September 1990 the idea of conceiving a festival around Beckett's work was launched by Ruud Hisgen and Ton van de Langkruis, two admirers of Beckett's work, who wanted to bring back the attention of the art world to the inspiration of Beckett's language and imagery. In their opinion most Dutch performances tended to be foremost attempts at experimental theatre, which were lacking Beckett's sense of humour and his mockery. A festival of multi-faceted nature was not only an answer to Beckett's ban on the performing rights of the previous years but also a chance for various artists to meet and exchange views in a practical and theoretical way. It was not hard to find other colleagues interested in their plan and rather quickly the Samuel Beckett Festival Foundation was created to organise and co-ordinate all festival activities, including Dutch and foreign performances and the international Symposium 'Beckett in the 90's'.

The core of the festival consisted of Beckett productions by companies based in The Netherlands. There were premieres by major Dutch theatre companies, like Waiting for Godot, directed by Franz Marijnen. Jiri Killian choreographed a new piece on Beckett at the Netherlands Dance Theatre and the Appel Theatre company presented a new production of Happy Days. Foreign productions included Endgame from the Royal Court Theatre (with David Warrilow and Barry McGovern), and a performance by the Italian Carlo Quartucci, one of the foremost representatives of the Italian avant-garde.

Dutch national television broadcasted documentaries and Beckett productions. Beckett's radio plays were newly produced and broadcasted by Dutch and Flemish radio. That year's World Wide Video Festival devoted attention to Beckett's work in two different ways: a music theatre production (Eh Joe, directed by Erick Aufderheyde, music by Earl Kim) and a presentation of videos of and about Beckett's work. In the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, the audience was able to select any of about 90 video productions for viewing, including Ghost Trio and Quadrat I and II, directed by Beckett himself. At the Filmhuis in The Hague, two new film premieres were shown, Beyond (Frans Zwartjes) and Film (Albert Wulffers).

The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague organised a special exhibition of artists whose work showed a marked affinity with that of Beckett, Bram van Velde and Geer van Velde, and Andre Masson, and a retrospective of Jack Yeats was on show. In addition, The Netherlands Theatre Institute joined forces with the Historical Museum to set up an exhibition on the history of Beckett productions in the Netherlands.

A wide-ranging symposium focusing on the work of Beckett took place on 8,9,10 and 11 April 1992. This academic event, organised by the Dutch Beckett Foundation was a truly international one: some 150 speakers from more than twenty countries presented their papers and were involved in the fierce discussions afterwards. The Symposium was attended by academics from literary, theatrical and interdisciplinary institutions world-wide and by leading directors, composers and translators.

Publishing House De Bezig Bij published two new Dutch tarnslations of Beckett's short prose: Het Beeld (L'image) and Verroeren (Stirrings Still). Other publishing companies released new anthologies, poem collections and collections of new essays.

In the year 2001, a festival on Beckett and Music will take place, entiteld After Beckett. The Beckett Music Festival. More information to come; you may for now query Erick Aufderheyde:

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