Barbican Celebrates the Work of Playwright & Director Samuel Beckett

This week-long programme includes screenings of Samuel Beckett’s rarely-seen and renowned films including Happy Days, Play, Ghost Trio and Eh Joe, exploring his complex relationship with television and film. As in Beckett’s theatrical productions, his films combine sharp direction, focused close-ups and a unique take on language.

Events begin with a showing of Beckett’s television pieces, specifically those exploring quintessential Beckett themes of absence, longing and broken relationships. Following this is the screening of 1966 film Eh Joe, a beautiful piece in which Joe speaks no words but instead his lonely life is narrated by the voice of a woman he once loved. Ghost Trio, meanwhile, sees a single man wait for a woman who never comes – instead he listens to Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Trio. It is a haunting depiction of life alone.

Another mediation of human yearning can be found in Beckett’s television play …but the clouds…, an intelligent piece which separates sound and vision as a woman mouths lines from Yeats’ poem The Tower, although it is a man’s voice, telling another story, that is heard.

More biographical showings include an adaptation of Beckett’s only screenplay, Quiet Pathos; a documentary about the playwright himself: and Silence to Silence, a mesmerising documentary about Beckett’s artistic life, explored through interviews with ‘talking heads’ such as Billie Whitelaw, Jack MacGowran and Patrick Magee.

Further screenings are intimate explorations of relationships, even Beckett’s own ill-fated relationship with his cousin, titled Love, Loss and Laughter, and his most humorous piece: Happy Days, which features Winnie, buried up to the waist in a low mound and who speaks incessantly to distract herself from her own fate.

Beckett on Screen, until 14 June, Cinema 3, Barbican, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS.

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1. Still from Samuel Beckett’s Play.