Beckett Audio

Beckett’s Radio Plays
 

All That Fall

With Billie Whitelaw & David Warrilow.

Evergreen Review, 1986/2002; 2 CDs; $39.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Evergreen Review:

Samuel Beckett’s first radio play is full of Irish humor and pathos. In it, Maddy Rooney (Billie Whitelaw), seventy years old, “two hundred pounds of unhealty fat,” makes her laborious way to the Boghill railroad station to meet her blind husband, Dan (David Warrilow), as a surprise for him on his birthday. Along the way she meets a comic array of Irish characters. On the retum home, deluged by neighorhood children and by rain, they keep their spirits up with a lively banter, sometimes savage, sometimes heart-rendering. This production premiered on Samuel Beckett’s eightieth birthday, April 13 1986, and has won a Gold Medal from the New York International Radio Festival and an Arts and Hurnanities Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. A coproduction of Soundscape, Inc. and the West German radio station, RIAS, Berlin.


Embers

With Billie Whitelaw & Barry McGovern.

Evergreen Review, 1986/2002; CD; $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Evergreen Review:

Henry (Barry McGovern) sits on the strand, tormented by the sound of the sea. He talks to his drowned father, who doesn’t answer, and to his wife, Ada (Billie Whitelaw), who does. Throughout it all the sound of the sea weaves in and out, almost like a third character. Though it was written in 1958-1959, in 1986 Samuel Beckett could describe the location (Killiney Beach, near the Foxrock house in which he spent his youth) and the sound of the sea with exacting detail. We recorded the sea at Killiney Beach for this production.


Rough For Radio II

With W. Dennis Hunt & Amanda Plummer.

Evergreen Review, 1986/2002; CD; $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Evergreen Review:

An Animator (W. Dennis Hunt), assisted by a Stenographer (Amanda Plummer) and the whip wielding mute character, Dick (Charles Potter) has the task of eliciting from Fox (Barry McGovern) some unknown testimony of unknown significance. If it could but be achieved then “tomorrow, who knows, we may be free!”


Words and Music

With David Warrilow & Alvin Epstein.
Music by Morton Feldman.

Evergreen Review, 1987/2002; CD; $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Evergreen Review:

This production includes a score by the late American composer, Morton Feldman. Words, called Bob (David Warrilow) and Music, called Joe (The Bowery Ensemble conducted by Nils Vigeland) are forced to collaborate by the club-wielding Croak (Alvin Epstein). Under duress they produce two of the most exquisite lyric poems ever written by Samuel Beckett. The play is often understood as as being “about” the agonizing difficulties of the creative process itself. The accompanying documentary features an interview with the late Mr. Feldman. A co-production of Voices International and Horspiel Studio III, WDR, Cologne.

For a long time, the only production of Words and Music available on CD was by Auvidis-Montaigne, with the Ensemble Recherche performing Feldman’s score, and Omar Ebrahim and Stephen Lind as Croak and Words. Recently, however, Evergreen Review has made available the original 1987 production, produced by Everett C. Frost for the American Beckett Festival of Radio Plays.
Evergreen Review has placed the entire original hour-long radio show on CD, not just the play itself, and so it comes complete with an introduction, interview excerpts with Morton Feldman, and commentary by Beckett scholars Linda Ben-Zvi and Morris Beja. Henry Stroszer provides a warm, trustworthy but suitably authoritative “public radio voice” that M.C.’s the production and guides the listener through the helpful documentary sections.
It is a joy to finally have this production available on CD. The work is performed with both authority and imagination, and with the exception of a slight muffled quality to the music, the sound is well-balanced and basically clear. It is obvious that the “Bowery Ensemble” truly believes in the score, and they play it with conviction, showing an awareness of Feldman’s subtleties and quirks. Even better, they maintain a theatrical grasp of the music as “Bob” the character, investing his scored personality with appropriate amounts of sly humor, agitated eagerness, and mournful longing.
The speaking roles are likewise delivered with understanding, humor, and nuance. Alvin Epstein’s Croak is the perfect mixture of irascible tyranny and aged fragility, and it’s hard not to sense an exaggerated image of Beckett behind the voice, as if Epstein had prepared himself by making a long study of photographs of Beckett’s craggy face and defiant eyes. Underneath his flashes of anger and tone of command, Epstein’s tyrant is haunted and painfully vulnerable. David Warrilow’s Joe, too, is flawlessly realized, following Beckett’s “stage directions” with a natural rhythm that brings the character sharply into focus. Self-important but obsequious, prideful yet full of genuine concern, Joe follows his master’s commands as faithfully as he can, never quite realizing that he is essentially out of his depth, and ultimately inadequate. The songs strike the perfect note, with Warrilow’s cracked voice illuminating “Age” like a flyspecked bulb revealing the bleak, melancholy contours of a forgotten sick-room.
The only negatives are the CD’s packaging and thoughtless indexing. The disc itself is actually a “burned” Verbatim CD-R, which may not play correctly in older CD-players. The packaging is minimal and obviously home-made, with a few paragraphs of information printed on the back of the cover slip. While gratitude for just releasing the CD itself may help one overlook the amateurish packaging, the inconvenient indexing is harder to excuse. The entire hour-long program is indexed as one single track, which makes it quite difficult to skip the introduction, go directly to various documentary segments and interviews, or navigate through the actual radio-play.

Words and Music

With Omar Ebrahim & Stephen Lind.
Music by Morton Feldman.

Naive-Montaigne CD, 1997; CD. [Browse/Purchase]

Of the two commercial versions of Words and Music that use Morton Feldman’s score, the Naive-Montaigne release is clearly the inferior of the pair. While the playing by the Ensemble Recherche is just fine, the entire production is subject to melodramatic readings and poor engineering.
Voiced by Omar Ebrahim and Stephen Lind, Croak and Joe come across as pompous hams – their performance sounds like a parody of a Shakespeare 101 class, with every bad-acting cliché given free reign. While Joe fares marginally better than Croak, Lind still delivers his lines with an overwrought articulation devoid of any humor. Though Beckett occasionally instructs Joe to sound “orotund” or to use a “poetic tone,” Lind takes that as a clue for the majority of his delivery, and he seems oblivious to the many possibilities inherent in Joe’s nervous mix of obsequence and bullying. But still, he’s better than Croak, who sounds like a basso profundo teenager role-playing a wizard in a bad game of Dungeons & Dragons. With little sensitivity to the nuances of his imperious dialogue, he delivers his lines with a painful slowness, inflating each of Beckett’s “pauses” with long seconds of dead air. Worse than his ponderous dialogue are his intermittent groans, which sound uncomfortably like a man straining to make a painful bowel movement. His final sigh, too, is just ridiculous, coming off like a protracted death rattle – perhaps the ghost of Beckett is strangling him in frustration?
Additionally, the disc is the victim of bad engineering. Not only is the entire work provided as a single track – making the selection of various cues nearly impossible – but the sound itself is sloppy, with audible cuts between the dialogue and the music marring the flow of the piece. Surely the music and vocals could have been more smoothly integrated?

Words and Music

With Joseph J. Casali & Frank Collison.
Music by Mark E. Miller.

Theater for Your Mother, 1979; MP3. [Browse/Download]

From UbuWeb’s Beckett site:

Written by Beckett in 1962
Music Composed by Mark E. Miller

Directed by Mark Lutwak
Performed by Theater for Your Mother, 1979
Words (Joe) – Joseph J. Casalini
Croak – Frank Collison
Music (Bob) – Leslie Dalaba, Trumpet
Wayne Horvitz – Contrabass and Harmonica
Mark E. Miller – Percussion and Vibraphone


Cascando

With Joseph J. Casali & Frank Collison.
Music by Wayne B. Horvitz.

Theater for Your Mother, 1979; MP3. [Browse/Download]

From UbuWeb’s Beckett site:

Written by Beckett in 1963.
Music Composed by Wayne B. Horvitz

Performed by Theater for Your Mother, 1979
Opener – Frank Collison
Voice – Joseph J. Casallini
Music – Lesli Dalaba, Trumpet


Cascando

With Fred Neumann and Alvin Epstein.

Evergreen Review, 1986/2002; CD; $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Evergreen Review:

This production includes the original score by William Kraft. In the play, an Opener (Fred Neumann) “opens” and “closes” two characters: Voice (Alvin Epstein), who desperately promises “this time” to tell a story he can finish; and Music (Specutum Musicae conducted by Mr. Kraft), who equally struggles to create a finished composition. A co-production of Voices International and Horspiel Studio lll, WDR, Cologne.


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Beckett Audio Main PageBack to the main audio page, where you will find the standard Apmonia menu.

AudioBooks – Adaptations and readings of Beckett’s fiction.

Recorded PerformancesRecordings of Beckett in performance.

MiscellaneousBeckett-related radio shows, readings, and soliloquies.



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–Allen B. Ruch
& Tim Conley
7 August 2004