Lisa Dwan, acclaimed Irish actress, producer and director, has just opened a new one-woman Samuel Beckett show at the Old Vic in London, No’s Knife. In regard to Dwan’s performance critics are writing that it is technically flawless; that Dwan illuminates Beckett’s triptych in a dazzling display of theatrical brilliance. This is Beckett, performed the way that Beckett would have wanted.
What is extraordinary about these remarks is that Beckett’s work is among the most difficult for actors to perform. What is extraordinary about Dwan is that she is part of the Beckett legacy of actresses. Dwan, coached by Billie Whitelaw, Beckett’s muse, is considered heir to Whitelaw, who died in 2014. Whitelaw was the English actress the exacting Beckett returned to again and again, and Dwan who honors that legacy is also fearless in her own right.
Dwan is in demand by directors of Beckett’s work. Walter Asmus, in particular, a German director who collaborated closely with Beckett late in the playwright's career and is considered one of his foremost interpreters directed Dwan in Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby.
She is has also produced her own one-woman Beckett shows. She co-directed her performance of Beckett’s Texts for Nothing, the first performance of that work by a woman. No’s Knife has been selected and arranged by the actress from Texts for Nothing, 13 fragmented prose pieces – interior monologues in which language is on the brink of breakdown – that were written in the early 1950s and not intended for theatrical presentation.
Lisa Dwan is an extraordinary artist to bring to the Atelier. She works in a particular, intense, highly skilled way and as part of the legacy of one of literature’s giants. With her Princeton students she will share how she approaches Beckett texts. Students interested in playwriting, criticism, acting, design will all benefit greatly from this opportunity to study with Dwan.
Dwan has said that performers who excel in Beckett’s work are those whose greatest wish is to subsume themselves in Beckett’s art. The challenge of attempting this will be demanding, enlightening, and of immense value to Atelier students.