So what does “Fizzles” mean?
What Beckett would’ve meant by Fizzles is that it’s like the tail-end of something, almost like the end of a fart – an intellectual fart if you will. They’re a group of short prose pieces he was working on throughout his life. For him something fizzling was something on the point of disappearing, something on the point of being no more. There’s a bit that Sarah Jaine Scaife (the director) once described to me, of Beckett sitting in a bay window in the West of Ireland, with grey wallpaper, watching the sun go down. Seemingly he would do this quite a lot. He was doing really well, but something wasn’t really working for him, and it was at these moments when he sat down and looked out that he could slow the world down. And in a way that’s what these pieces do. They slow time down. Fizzling out and slowing time down.
Sarah Jane Scaife’s productions have a huge interest in architecture and in the place in which something is set. Fizzles is set in Henrietta Street. What does the place and architecture bring to this production?
It’s all about the building. Site-specific doesn’t really do it for me, it’s about inserting the story into the context of the city, going beyond just the use of the immediate space, going far wider. Every time you place something so specifically you’re immediately engaged in a different landscape, soundscape, cultural connection, connotations, smells, and it’s incredibly powerful.
Beckett is one of the great writers for clowns in a way. As the foremost clowning expert in Ireland, how did you apply your physical discipline and framework to Fizzles?
Beckett is like the greatest writer of Butoh and the greatest clown writer of all time. He used to skip Trinity lectures to go up and see vaudeville in the cinema, and of course in Godot those two are hobo-clowns full of vaudevillian humour. But he always pulls the rug from under them. Failure, success, going on no matter what – that’s the clown sensibility. In clown we say you need to be authentically present, and to be present means you are in conversation. And for me Beckett creates that conversation in its most minimal, and like all good art, it slows time down.
You talk about having done Act Without Words II in 1992 and then again in 2011 – how much attention have you paid to how your body has changed with the passing of time, how you may have calculated your appearance into the performance? You look very like Samuel Beckett now.
My whole life people have told me I look like someone. First it was David Bowie, then David Byrne, then Andy Warhol, and now Beckett – who wouldn’t want to look like any of those people! We’ve been careful. I’m surprised continually by this work, I just keep doing it, keep doing it, and I eventually become it and embody it. Beckett is all about the body. Butoh, clown, Beckett – they’re my holy Trinity and they are all in the body. Doing Beckett like this at 57 is such food for my soul. I’m really moved by it. There’s a zeitgeist at the moment of going back to Beckett and talking about age. He wrote for the older body no question. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I smoke cigarettes – I’m not the physical theatre person. But my knowledge is accumulated, there’s a storage of physical expression there that I can access.
Samuel Beckett’s Fizzles runs from 10th to 17th September with three shows a day 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin 1. Tickets cost €15 or €13 with a concession. Tiger Dublin Fringe runs citywide from September 5th to 20th, for bookings see www.fringefest.com or call box office on 1850 FRINGE (374 643)
Words: Roisin Agnew
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