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Laura Peja (Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Italy)
Beckett and Theatre Anthropology

Theatre Anthropology in the meaning Eugenio Barba fixed is one of the most innovative and fertile approaches to the theatre study that have been conceived in the last decades. Through transcultural analysis of performances, it studies the behaviour of the human being when it uses its physical and mental presence in an organised performance situation and according to principles which are different from those used in daily life, in other words when it uses a "technique", which produces tensions and generates a different energy quality, rendering the body theatrically "decided" and "alive". Beckett is maybe the greatest playwright of the XXth century, for long considered a literary genius who enjoyed some diversions to the theatre as a "relief" from his weightier work.

How could ever a correlation exist between these apparently opposite universes? As it has already been clarified, there has never been a Beckett who wrote plays in his spare time. The pure "theatricality" of his talent has been largely proved. To quote one of the international authorities on Beckett’s theatre, Gontarski, we may well say that if on the one hand "the idea of performance preoccupied Samuel Beckett well before he began to explore its potential directly in the theatre", on the other, his exploration of performance culminated in a second career that spanned the last twenty years of his life and that was due precisely to his "awareness that dramatic works need to be created on stage". The profound comprehension he had of the art of the actor is also asserted by many of the people he worked with on the stage. Most of them remember the high degree of precision he demanded, his "obsession" with rhythm, his concern for getting his work "right", and at the same time the "powerful understanding of, and compassion for, his fellow man" (Billie Whitelaw).

Beckett’s rigour as a playwright and as a director is not against but rather for the actor’s benefit. He never tried to restrain a freedom of the actor that he considered a threat to the supremacy of the text. Rather he knew that, as Barba says, "a composition defined in all its details, rigorous in form and rich in precision is a primary need for the actor".

It is not, therefore, so surprising to find that an analysis of Beckett’s texts for the stage (considering not only their original editions but also the long re-writing work in the Notebooks), reveals how close they are to Theatre Anthropology and consistent with the "recurrent principles" it traces.

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