December 17, 2017
Endgame in LondonOn this day in 1957, Samuel Beckett's Endgame was first performed in London, in French. Waiting for Godot had premiered in 1953 and become an international sensation, but Beckett could find no one in France willing to risk their theater on a new play which featured one character who could not stand, one who could not sit, and two others unable to come out of their garbage cans. He had written the play in French and wanted a French premiere, but when the Royal Court Theatre offered their space, Beckett agreed to travel.
That he came to regret it had more to do with Beckett than the poor reviews. Having been horrified at much of what producers, directors and actors had done to Godot -- "It's ahl wrahng! He's doing it ahl wrahng!" he'd whispered throughout the London premiere -- Beckett had written precise stage and acting directions into Endgame.
Beckett was never hopeful about communication -- ''there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express" – but he found collaboration with his English producer and French director to be agony. Nor was day-to-day living one of Beckett's strengths: he hid from reporters at the theater and from acquaintances in his London hotel and flew home before the opening. He returned eighteen months later for the English-language premiere, this time in a double-bill with Krapp's Last Tape. The personal agony continued, say the biographers, and judging by Kenneth Tynan's parody-review entitled "Slamm's Last Knock," the critical misunderstanding was worse:
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