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ABSTRACTS

Mark Batty (University of Leeds)
Roger Blin and Samuel Beckett: A Solidarity of the Meek

In 1952, as a preface and introduction to the ORTF radio broadcast of En attendant Godot, still in rehearsal for its premiere at the Babylon, Roger Blin read a message from Beckett in which he confessed “I have no theories about the theatre. I know nothing about it. I never go. It’s unacceptable”.1 From this acknowledged position of ignorance about mise en scène, Samuel Beckett’s care to involve himself in the staging of his dramatic works, from that 1953 production of En attendant Godot and the ensuing intense period of collaboration with directors of his works in the sixties, was symptomatic, as James Knowlson states, of his realisation that “there were elements that he would never get right until he staged the plays himself […] so as to identify the problematic areas and ensure that at least one production conformed with his overall vision of the play.”2 S.E. Gontarski argues that “working directly in the theatre became an indispensable part of Beckett's creative process”3 and an awareness of Beckett’s processes of compilation, translation and production provides the scholar with a significant body of material that effectively represents Beckett’s own commentary on his own work.

Beckett’s relationship with Roger Blin, which Beckett himself recognised as having made an enormous impact on his career, was a formative influence upon the author’s development as a director of his own work. Their engagement together on the early French productions of En attendant Godot, Fin de partie and Oh Les Beaux Jours represent some of the most significant examples of Beckett’s exposure to the possibilities of live theatre as his first significant experiments with dramatic form were being formulated. As such, they are of importance in any understanding of the progress of Beckett’s attitude and response towards the complementary demands of writing and of forging theatrical artefacts of the written material. This paper aims to consider the possible traces of influences of Roger Blin’s methodology and attitudes within Beckett’s own approach as director to actors and the written text, by considering the nature of the collaboration between the two artists, the impact of Blin upon the performance texts of the plays he directed and the disagreements over dramatic function that the two men negotiated.

1“Je n' ai pas d'idées sur le théâtre, je n'y connais rien, je n'y vais pas, c'est inadmissible.” Samuel Beckett, preamble to extracts from En attendant Godot, recited by Roger Blin, broadcast by O.R.T.F., January 1952. My translation.
2Knowlson, James, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. London: Bloomsbury, 1996, p.518..

3
Revising Himself: Performance as Text in Samuel Beckett's Theatre’ in Journal of Modern Literature (22:1) 1998, p.113.



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