Beckett Trilogy

Acclaimed Irish actress Lisa Dwan captivates in hypnotic triple bill

Presented by Canadian Stage
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Walter Asmus
Performed by Lisa Dwan

Lisa Dwan in Beckett Trilogy: Rockaby. Photo by John Haynes.

Following a successful run at the Royal Court Theatre, the internationally acclaimed Beckett Trilogy: Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby, starring Lisa Dawn and directed by Beckett's long-time friend and collaborator Walter Asmus, opens Canadian Stage's 2015/2016 season this month at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

Beckett Trilogy features three short plays, Not I, Footfalls and Rockaby, presented back-to-back in a mind-bending 60-minute production. The theatre is completely dark throughout (even the exit signs are turned off), which adds to the intensity of the experience.

Not I is a short monologue delivered rapidly by a disembodied female mouth floating eight feet above the stage and illuminated by a single beam of light. The story that emerges from this stream-of-thought rant (if you can keep up) is that of a woman about 70 years old who was abandoned by her parents after a premature birth and who appears to have suffered an unspecified traumatic experience. The mouth jabbers away—shrieking, gasping, laughing, spluttering—as she describes several disjointed scenes from her life. Dwan's delivery is extraordinary. She was coached by Billy Whitelaw, who originated the role and was directed by Beckett himself.

In Footfalls, May paces outside of her dyingmother's bedroom (or is she already dead?). Her steps fall like a metronome as she walks back and forth, dressed in a tattered nightdress, haunted by some unresolved issue. Dwan brings a ghostly expression and extraordinary focus to the part. Watching her movements the audience is lulled into a trance-like state of wonder.  

Finally, Rockaby explores lonliness through the eyes of a prematurely old woman dressed in an evening gown, sitting on a wooden rocking chair. Recounting moments from her past, she slowly withdraws from the world. Written in diameter verse, Beckett's text echoes the back-and-forth motion of the rocking chair:

time she stopped
sitting at her window
quiet at her window
only window
facing other windows
only other windows
all eyes
all sides
high and low
time she stopped

Fans of the avant-guard playwright will be sorry if they miss this powerful trio of plays. See Lisa Dwan's dark and magnificent performance in Beckett Trilogy at the Berkeley Street Theatre until November 1, 2015. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

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