Beckett Sa Creig: Laethanta Sona (Happy Days) – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Date(s) – 15-17 Oct, 7.30pm, 16-17 Oct, 2.30pm
Read our Interview with Director Sarah Jane Scaife here.
On the 30th of August this year, Company SJ opened their Irish language version of Happy Days at the amazing location of Creig an Staic, Inis Oírr as part of the Galway International Arts Festival. This outdoors production captured the essence of what Beckett sought after with its remote location, with stone underfoot and a backdrop of sea and sky. The stage directions read “Trompe-l’oeil backcloth to represent unbroken plain and sky receding to meet in far distance,” but I doubt even Beckett would have complained about this small alteration to his request!
If you didn’t make it to this production, you’ll have to make do with the more pedestrian setting of the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College for this version of the production at the Dublin Theatre Festival. The theatre company have tried to capture the essence of the site-specific work by projecting images of the limestone onto the flat, white surface of the mound where Winnie is trapped. A blue sky is projected onto the backdrop behind the mound. This is also the location for the surtitles with the translation appearing above the head of the main actor, Bríd Ní Neachtain. The use of video projections onto the mound and walls is highly effective but could never compete with the real thing.
The text for the production was translated into Irish by Mícheal Ó Chongaile. You can only imagine the difficulty of trying to capture the wordplay and style of someone like Beckett. The whole process took over a year with many discussions between the translator, director and lead actress. Unfortunately, my Irish is not of sufficient quality to comment on Mícheal’s translation, we’ll leave that to the academics.
Bríd Ní Neachtain takes on the iconic role of Winnie with Raymond Keane playing her significant other Willie. Bríd is a Galway native and has worked extensively on stage at the Abbey and also at An Taibhdhearc, the Irish language theatre in Galway. It is a difficult role as you’re immediately compared to the many greats that have played the part over the years. She was largely successful in the role, playing Winnie as a warm and affable character. The comedic elements of the first act never really emerged but the second act was more successful, as we see the downtrodden Winnie continue to fight against adversity. Surprisingly few Irish language plays are performed in Dublin and this is a welcome addition to the theatre festival. Company SJ continues to put a new spin on the old master, introducing Beckett’s work to a new generation. There is talk of a new production of Beckett’s work on Inis Oírr at some point, and it would certainly be worth the trip!
Cast & Creative Team
Written by Samuel Beckett
Translated by Mícheal Ó Chongaile
Directed by Sarah Jane Scaife
Winnie: Bríd Ní Neachtain
Willie: Raymond Keane
Sculptor/ Designer: Ger Clancy
Lighting Designer: Sarah Jane Shiels
Videography: Kilian Waters and Dan Keane
Costume and Prop Design: Sinead Cuthbert
Set Design Assistant: Aidan Fox
Production Manager: Grace Halton
Stage Manager: Muireann Ní Raghallaigh
Photographer: Cormac Coyne
Produced by: Tim Scott