Irish Theatre Environments
What role does nature play in the cultural world of the theatre? Is the auditorium not a natural environment, and how can theatre and nature aesthetics co-exist in the productive expression of performance? Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments proposes a new way of thinking about Irish theatre: one that challenges established boundaries between nature and culture and argues for theatre performances to be seen as conceptual ecological environments. Broadening the scope of theatre environments to encompass radiophonic and digital spaces, Re-Place is a timely interrogation of how we understand performance history. This book examines the work, both as text and in production, of three canonical Irish playwrights, J. M. Synge, Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel, and looks at how theatre documentation can further the idea of a natural performance environment. The questions under consideration extend Irish theatre history into the field of the environmental humanities and draw on new materialist discourse to offer exciting and innovative ways to approach performance.
Chapter 3: ‘Oh to be in Atoms’: Samuel Beckett’s Material Exchanges
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‘Oh to be in Atoms’: Samuel Beckett’s Material Exchanges
If the West of Ireland is seen as a place where conceptual ideas of identity are concentrated, the work of Samuel Beckett challenges the very notion of environmental embodiment. There are two schools of thought with regards to the theme of place in Beckett’s work: firstly, the plays’ environments depict a universal non-place or secondly, that there is an underlying presence of Irish landscapes. Adorno has argued of Beckett that, ‘by striking the subject dead, reality itself becomes deathly; this transition is the artfulness of antiart, and in Beckett it is pushed to the point of the manifest annihilation of reality’.1 This account of Beckett’s work as the very annihilation of reality is an example of the critiques of his theatre environments as being without significant ties to place. However, studies have challenged the notion of placelessness in Beckett.2 The diminishing landscape is a feature of Beckett’s work as a whole. From a solitary tree in Waiting for Godot to an all-but-disappeared landscape in Endgame, Beckett’s environments are conceptual in that they reflect the psychological state of the characters, but they are ecological in that the material interchange between body and environment is a central component of the play. This chapter will examine how the performative environment is generated in these plays and how the characters relate to the space around them. Lawrence Buell has written that the ‘stark blasted tree...
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