Friday, June 09, 2006

Shoestring and Endgame

Samuel Beckett, one of the most significant figures in 20th century theatre, received international fame, for his first play Waiting for Godot. The play was revolutionary in its form, shocking audiences and critics alike, leading one well-known actor to lament, ‘It is the end of the theatre as we know it’. He was right: theatre was never the same after Beckett.

Beckett was soon to outdo himself in his later work, particularly in his second play, Endgame. A landmark in modern theatre, Endgame is considered a sensitive portrayal of the absurdity of the modern condition. While the philosophical undertones are integral to any Beckett play, the formalistic experimentation is far more exciting, and far more significant.

The play is constructed on the central motif of a chess game that is winding down. This motif is evident in the dialogue, imagery and action. The claustrophobic insularity of the world of Hamm and Clov also point toward this overarching motif, a game where the rules are the last resort. The element of humour, drawn from vaudeville and stand up comedy, a staple in Beckettian stagecraft, serves to intensify his bleak view of the world. Endgame displays in ample measure, the self-consciousness that Beckett’s plays have been noted for. The formal self-consciousness, or the metatheatrical elements, are perhaps most evident in the use of space, a starting point for the scenic design in our production.

Beckett has been noted for his relentless experimentation, his remorseless depiction of the modern life, and perhaps far more significantly, for his contributions to the craft of the theatre: his utilization of space and lighting, sound and visuals, and action and the plastic elements, and the seamless interweaving of the formal and thematic elements.

His efforts to expand the scope of the theatre have led to him being widely acknowledged as having been the inspiration for an entire generation of playwrights after him, including Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

For more information on Samuel Beckett, visit the excellent
Samuel Beckett Online Resources and Links Page

The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him.

Harold Pinter, on Beckett

Download a complete e-text of Endgame here.

Shoestring hopes to recreate the daring formal experimentation in Beckett’s masterpiece. We hope to reinvent the play by expanding the scope for movement, visuals and music in the play. In addition to intricate movement that will explore a unique dimension of the play, we have also conceived an exciting scenic design that will vastly expand the scope of the play. The elements of humour, the slapstick comedy and clowning, always integral to Beckett’s work for the stage, play a significant part in our interpretation of Endgame. The earthy humour makes the play accessible, immediate and vital, while the bleak setting adds poignancy to the play.

Our production of Endgame will primarily communicate the experience of the play itself – the claustrophobia, the hopeless, the absurdity, the struggle to maintain some kind of dignity in the face of this absurdity. We hope intellectual and philosophical themes will suggest themselves to the audience in hindsight, at a kind of secondary level of communication. Our production, we rather hope, will be remembered for its utilization of space, movement and the visual elements, as well as the underlying humour of its execution, rather than the philosophical underpinnings to which Beckett has unfortunately been restricted.

The Shoestring Story

Shoestring is a group of young theatre professionals brought together by a common view of the theatre as a visceral experience created by a union of the formal and thematic elements. In other words, ours is a theatre where the stagecraft is as integral to a production as the literary and narrative elements.

This interest in the craft of the theatre leads us to experiment with the auditory, visual, plastic and physical elements in our productions, motivating us to engage in a continuous search for unusual forms and themes, thereby constantly reinventing and redefining our theatre.

Shoestring makes no grandstanding claims to arrive at a perfect form, if that were even possible, of theatre. Our only claim is to constantly experiment and explore new theatrical forms.

Shoestring was christened Act II Scene I Productions, in an earlier avatar. Act II Scene I was formed between Vivek V. Narayan and Warren D’Sylva.

This group produced 2 plays in 2005, Life Goes On and Ionesco’s modern classic The Chairs.

Life Goes On was performed at the prestigious intercollegiate dramatic festival Olio, and bagged 5 awards, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Lighting, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

The Chairs was commissioned by the Department of English, St. Xavier’s College, and was presented as part of Ithaka, the annual festival of the English Department. The play was
well received, and was noted for its extensive use of physical action and humour, as well as its unusual scenic design.

The group was renamed Shoestring as part of a larger revision of the group and its activities. In addition to productions and street shows, shoestring’s proposed activities include a
theatre-centric e-magazine, workshops for schoolchildren and aspiring theatre professionals, and a permanent script-writing workshop.

Besides Vivek and Warren, Shoestring counts Prashant Prakash, Meghna Gandhi, Ananya Parikh, Nimisha Dutta Chavan and Bijoy Idicheriah amongst its members, all of whom bring considerable individual experience to Shoestring.

Shoestring has plans for 3 productions in the near future, the first of which is Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. The other productions are adaptations of Salman Rushdie’s endearing novella for children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Kafka’s bleak allegory of modern life, The Metamorphosis.

Shoestring attaches great importance to original scripts, members of the group having scripted 3 original plays in the past year, with one more being in the pipeline. Vivek’s The Great Mime, Warren’s Stitch Bitch and Clusterphobia, as well as The Block, written by Prashant Prakash and Naren Chandavarkar, are original scripts that Shoestring intends to produce in the future. Currently, Vivek is working on a performance piece based on Albert Camus' The Plague, and Warren is adaptating Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

What is Shoestring?

Shoestring Theatre is a group of young theatre professionals based in Mumbai, and was formed in August 2005.
Our production of Ends and Beginnings, based on Samuel Beckett's Endgame, won awards and accolades in 2006.
This year, we continue with more exciting work, with Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Albert Camus' The Plague and Harold Pinter's The Dumb-Waiter in the pipeline.
We also conduct fun workshops for children in the age group of 9 to 12 years, as well as introductory workshops for young theatre enthusiasts in the age group of 16 to 20 years.
Shoestring Theatre has 6 active members at the moment:
Vivek V. Narayan, Warren D'Sylva, Bijoy Idicheriah, Rishi Verma, Niharika Negi and Edsil Coutinho.