Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” at Ranga Shankara: Play Review
n the well-designed brochure that Ligra distributed at the staging of Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days”, at Ranga Shankara on the 12th and 13th of December, was a line by Chandran Sankaran, written to the husband of the actor who plays the lead, Winnie (Patty Gallagher) …and it says, “I finally understood a Beckett play!”
That’s an important line to keep in mind as we approach one of Samuel Beckett’s lesser known plays ( the better known ones, of course are “Waiting for Godot” and “The End Game”.)
Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969, and it’s amazing to think that this play, on the 8th of October, completed 50 years of existence! For that kind of history, it’s pretty timeless.
It’s also, in a sense, spaceless. It deals with a woman who is buried, first up to her waist, and in the second act, up to her neck, in sand, while her husband, Willie(surely a very unrewarding role for any actor..his entire dialogue in the second act was one monosyllabic word-grunt!)fumbles around her and goes into his cave or hole occasionally.
Beckett is not interested in the cause of this situation, but he draws the character of Winnie, with her unfailing optimism that each will be, once again, a “happy day”.
You can read about the play in the Wiki,
Patty Gallagher has been playing Winnie and Joe McGrath the part of Willie (surely a very unrewarding role for any actor when the entire dialogue in the second act consists of a monosyllabic grunt!), but when Chandran Sankaran saw the play, he and
decided to bring it to Bangalore. So
had a growing group of volunteers who decided that Ranga Shankara would be the venue.
Patty Gallagher has made an excellent choice in this role and play. It is a very demanding role, where no body movements can be made, and in the second half, the face alone must convey the dramatic action and hold the audience. And with that mobile, incredibly expressive face, that runs the gamut of emotions, Patty carried the play through with remarkable aplomb. The brochure says that they were looking for a local actor to play Willie, and to my mind this would have been adequate, but it was Joe Mc Grath who did play the role.
It was a treat, too, to watch the very subtle direction of the play. Patty’s husband Stewart told me before the start, that even her small eye movements are scripted; I must say that was a very tough job superbly done.
The lighting and the “off” effects were also well-timed and impeccably executed.
And so…we come to the “But”.
Well…part of the “but” has nothing to do with Rogue Theater or Ligra…it is just that of late, I seem to be watching nothing but monologues at Ranga Shankara…”Bikhre Bimb”, “Flowers”….and I found it a little palling to have yet another play where a single actor has to carry the entire play.
Also, I am beginning to thirst, in a bourgeoisie way, for plays with a properstoryline and action…and a play about a woman stuck in the mud, with a few articles of daily use, is neither easy to understand nor digest.
It’s all very well to be part of a “discerning” theatre audience, but I don’t want, always, to be stretching my mind at an evening of theatre, and probably because of the plays I have been watching, found this one to be difficult.
However, I did enjoy the play much more than I would have thought possible, and for this, I thank Ligra, Rogue Theatre, and Patty Gallagher!
The play is recommended if you are into serious theatre; if you are just out for an evening’s entertainment, it’s still watchable, given a suspension of disbelief about a woman existing between sleep and waking periods, buried in sand.