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Feckham, Peckham, Fulham, Clapham…Hammersmith: Beckett at Riverside Studios

McFrederick, M. ORCID: (2016) Feckham, Peckham, Fulham, Clapham…Hammersmith: Beckett at Riverside Studios. In: Tucker, D. and McTighe, T. (eds.) Staging Beckett in Great Britain. Bloomsbury, Methuen Drama, London, pp. 37-55. ISBN 9781474240178

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By 1980 Samuel Beckett had directed and supervised productions of his drama in a number of major UK and European theatres including the Royal Court, the National Theatre and the Schiller Theater. Why were his final theatrical productions rehearsed at an arts centre in Hammersmith? Situated on the banks of the Thames in Hammersmith, West London, and on the margins of London’s theatrical and artistic centre, during the 1980s the Riverside Studios was an international arts centre that programmed major artists including Tadeusz Kantor, Dario Fo, Joan Miro and David Hockney. In what would be the last productions he would work on, Beckett directed the San Quentin Drama Workshop on productions of Endgame (1980) and Waiting for Godot (1984); productions that would begin their life in London and later be produced worldwide under the title ‘Beckett directs Beckett’. Complementing the story of how Beckett’s theatrical presence in London prospered through the support shown to him by George Devine at the Royal Court, this chapter will discuss how Beckett’s time at the Riverside was a fulcrum for working friendships and developing new networks. For example, Beckett’s collaborations with the San Quentin Drama Workshop stemmed from his productive friendship with the former San Quentin prisoner turned actor, Rick Cluchey, and such friendly work with the company allowed rehearsals to become a performance laboratory observed by artists, directors, journalists, photographers and academics. This chapter will analyse how these collaborative rehearsals contributed to what has been called Beckett’s ‘continuous creative process’ as a writer, translator and director. Furthermore, through judicious use of previously unpublished archival materials and interviews, the chapter will discuss how Beckett returned support for Riverside regarding its funding and political issues. The chapter will contextualise Beckett’s place in the Riverside’s eclectic international programming and discuss the later productions of his work staged at the Riverside from 1980-1990, which in turn involved renowned practitioners such as Joe Chaikin, Billie Whitelaw and Max Wall. This multifaceted history will culminate by looking at issues of legacy regarding the 1989-1990 production of Krapp’s Last Tape and Catastrophe with David Warrilow; the first production of Beckett’s drama staged after his death, produced by his friends, at his alternative London theatrical home.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Samuel Beckett Research Centre
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:86787
Uncontrolled Keywords:Samuel Beckett, performance histories, theatre historiography, Riverside Studios
Publisher:Bloomsbury, Methuen Drama


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