Beckett Trilogy: Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby

Opened 3 February 2014, Closed 15 February 2014 at the Duchess Theatre in London

Lisa Dwan stars in three solo pieces by Samuel Beckett - Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby - in London for a strictly limited two week season.

Samuel Beckett's 1973 Not I is an intense monologue, set in a pitch-black space lit by a single beam of light. 1981 Rockaby explores loneliness and features a prematurely old woman dressed in an evening gown, sitting on a wooden rocking chair that appears to rock of its own accord. 1976 Footfalls features May, wrapped in tatters, pacing back and forth like a metronome, on a strip of bare landing outside her dying mother's room.

Directed by Walter Asmus with designs by Alex Eales, lighting by James Farncombe, sound by David McSeveney and music by Tom Smail. This production was originally staged at the Royal Court Theatre from 9 to 18 January 2014.

"In this trio of Samuel Beckett playlets Lisa Dwan's riveting performance has the audience peering into the darkness. Not the normal semi-dark of a theatre, but a smothering black blanket obscuring the person in front. The darkness is metaphorical, for the plays explore the subconscious, the guilty conscience, murmurings from beyond the grave... Haunting stuff, which sends you out into the night rattled - but frustratingly baffled." The Mail on Sunday

"Walter Asmus's production slips from one short play to the next, from the woman obsessively pacing in Footfalls to the old lady in Rockaby, searching the opposite wall for signs of life. Dwan is a sensitive performer, and in many ways these plays are remarkable. But they are an old man's work, with little of the bracing humour of the younger Beckett. They can be seen as paintings, or even pieces of music, but only occasionally burst into life as theatre." The Sunday Times

"This informal trilogy presents three women in varying stages of mental and physical disintegration. The performance is an extraordinary feat of memory and concentration by Lisa Dwan, the sole actress, whose Irish brogue not only recalls Beckett's origins but hints at lives blighted by religiosity. Nevertheless, unless one shares Beckett's reductively bleak view of the human condition, the evening provides few emotional, spiritual or intellectual rewards." The Express on Sunday

"Lisa Dwan's heightened Irish accent, staccato stabs of emphasis and occasional hiccupping cackle all work against you - not that Beckett's testing text is exactly lucid prose to begin with. But she captures Mouth's frantic, clamouring need to disentangle the thread of her life and find what is of significance, and the pain of that process has a mule-like kick here.... Rockaby closes the trilogy, which director Walter Asmus steers assuredly. It expands the themes of ageing and dying, with Dwan in a rocking chair moving slowly to the mournful dirge of her own recorded voice. It's a measured giving up on life, a gentle sinking into the chair's embrace, that chills you with its sense of calm disappointment." The Metro

Of the three plays, the most physically demanding is Not I, a monologue performed by a mouth that Beckett instructed should hover eight feet above the stage and be performed 'at the speed of thought'. In order to do this Lisa Dwan blacks out the lower half of her face while swaddling the rest of her head in black material and standing with her head held in a brace so that her mouth - the only visible part of her body - never leaves the spotlight. To help her not move during the performance her body is pinned to the back of a board. She says that "it's like a crucifix position. I have a hernia from trying to push the sound out. And I'm always pulling muscles in my back and neck. What I adore about the language is that it's not gender specific. Particularly with Not I. When I'm there I don't feel like a woman. I almost feel like a country. It's that vast," adding that "it's an utter privilege being a young blonde woman not to have to engage with any of that. Not to have to engage with my body."

Beckett Trilogy in London at the Duchess Theatre opened on 3 February 2014, and closed on 15 February 2014.