A special season of 6 short plays by Samuel Beckett

Programme I - Out of the Dark

FOOTFALLS. Out of the shadows a woman emerges, pacing, her footfalls and words echoing in space.
ROCKABY. A woman rocks and listens to the sound of the voice inside her head.
NOT I. A narrow beam of light hits a disembodied mouth high in the air which cannot stop speaking.

Programme 2 - Over the Years

EMBERS. Out of the darkness the sound of the sea and the voice of an old man and his memories.
A PIECE OF MONOLOGUE. A shaft of light appears, a room with a man and a lamp.
THAT TIME. The disembodied face of an old man listening to the voices inside his head.

Samuel Beckett is one of the great playwrights of the twentieth century and his short plays are amongst the most exquisite and provocative plays ever written for theatre.


The Royal Shakespeare Company is working, for the first time, in a special collaboration with five major European arts organisations and Offshore International Cultural Projects to produce two exciting and innovative theatre programmes, presented as Beckett Shorts.

Conceived as an international project, Beckett Shorts opens at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon on 22 October 1997 and will then be hosted by five co-producers later this year: Hahn Produktion Reithalle (Munich), Belfast Festival, Mercat de los Flors (Barcelona), Archa Theatre (Prague) and the Merlin International Theatre (Budapest). This will be the first time that the RSC has visited these theatres in Munich, Barcelona, Prague and Budapest.

Beckett Shorts is a unique season of six short plays by Samuel Beckett and is directed by RSC Associate Director Katie Mitchell. With a company of three actors and in two programmes, Beckett Shorts will present together for the first time Footfalls, Rockaby and Not I (entitled collectively, Out of the Dark) and Embers, A Piece of Monologue and That Time (entitled collectively, Over the Years). Beckett Shorts will be an extraordinary interactive experience, exploring the relationship between the audience and performer in an innovative way: each piece will be performed in different seating configurations, sometimes a promenade.

Award-winning actress Juliet Stevenson returns to the RSC to play May in Footfalls and Mouth in Not I. Nigel Cooke also rejoins the company to play Henry in Embers, Speaker in A Piece of Monologue and Listener in That Time. Debra Gillett plays Mother in Footfalls, Woman in Rockaby and Ada in Embers.

The Royal Shakespeare Company tours more works abroad than any other UK theatre company. In 1996 the RSC toured a record number of five productions overseas, giving 131 performances in eleven countires to a total audience of 152,000 people.

Offshore International Cultural Projects is an independent production company presenting work by leading international theatre companies, directors, and other artists. Offshore is currently working on projects with Silviu Purcarete, Michael Nyman and the Maly Drama Theatre. Beckett Shorts is part of the French Theatre Season and is presented with special assistance from the British Council and the Annenberg Foundation.


1. The programmes will be presented more as an installation than a traditional theatre production. We will therefore be looking at responding positively to the architecture, features and dynamics of each theatre or space we visit. The aim of the work is to explore the interface between actor and audience and to liberate both alike from the formal relationship that fixed seating patterns impose. Therefore each piece will be performed with different seats in different seating configurations in the space. We will also be exploring a promenade for some of the pieces. By radically changing the spacial dynamic for each play, we hope to release Beckettīs texts form formal staging constrictions and put the plays back into a genuinely experimental context.

2. We want to avoid breaks between each of the three pieces in each programme and are devising a way in which the audinece would move from piece to piece in the space, so that each programme becomes a coherent whole. Either we would use two spaces or divide one space into two. We would want to do this as simply as possible.

3. We also want to treat the existing space, so that the audience enter it is as if they are entering a room, not a theatre space. We would like to create the atmosphere of decaying room, drawing on elements referred to in all the pieces, e.g., small square patches on the walls where photographs were once pinned, torn photographs and dust on the floor, etc. Once the show begins this environment would receed and we would be looking at figures, faces, mouths coming out of the darkness.

4. From a lighting point of view we are currently exploring using lights coming from the wall level and not from a rig above. The Lighting Designer is looking at having a "black void" above and lighting each piece from hidden sources on the walls of the space. We will also need as total a blackout as possible at times.

5. Sound is the most complex aspect of the piece as at least three of the pieces require radio mics, and EMBERS, the radio play, needs a sound proofed space in which the actors perform the text which will then be relayed to the audience. The Beckett Estate has given us the rights to this play on the condition that we perform it as a radio play, in total blackout with the actors not visible. Nice, eh?

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