The Face and Stage Layout
The listener's face in That Time is 10 feet above the stage level off center . . . [with] long flaring white hair as if seen from above outspread (Beckett 228). Only the face of this person is seen, and with the hair spread out as it is, it sounds as if the audiences is looking down upon the man covered up in bed. The rest of the stage is left a dark void, which causes the audience's attention to be drawn to the face, but the face is off center, showing that it, although the only tangible character, should not be the focus of attention.
The three voices speak continuously through the play with the exception of the two pauses and the last twenty-three seconds of the play. The switch between voices is intended to be clearly faintly perceptible (Beckett 227). The three voices come from different positions around the stage and have three different pitches but run together enough that the switch is smooth and not discontinuous. The voice pattern before the first break is ACB ACB ACB CAB; the next pattern is CBA CBA CBA BCA; and the third is BAC BAC BAC BAC. The fact that the pattern is not disturbed at the end of the third sequence is one explanation for the smile seen on the face at the end of the play: In the third section Listener can take some pleasure in the restoration of order . . . as the BAC pattern is retained throughout the third part (Gontarski 158). This explanation, though, is rather weak, because Beckett changed the pattern only in the last revision, and so it is an unlikely explanation for the smile, which had been previously written into the play (Gontarski 158).
Beckett, Samuel. Collected Shorter Plays. NY: Grove Press, Inc., 1984. 226-235.
Gontarski, S. E. The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett's Dramatic Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
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Images and Recurring Themes