Notebook (two of two) for Samuel Beckett's Schiller production of Glückliche Tage (Happy Days)

Description

From the mid-1960s Samuel Beckett began to direct his own plays for theatre and for television. This is one of two notebooks that Beckett kept for his production of Glückliche Tage (Happy Days) at the Schiller Theater Werkstatt in Berlin, September 1971 – a venue he would return to for many other productions of his own work. All quoted text is from the German translation of the play, while Beckett’s directorial notes are in English. Beckett prepared the notebook before rehearsals started.

As well as containing small changes to the script, the notebook displays Beckett’s incredibly precise, meticulous approach to directing his work. Beckett kept notebooks like this one for all of his productions. Together they are invaluable for showing us Beckett’s dynamic, evolving vision for the staging of his own work, as he directed from within the theatre space.

Although Happy Days is ‘not perhaps noted for the animation of [its] players’ – Winnie can only move her upper body, for half of the play – the notebook reveals Beckett’s ‘vigorous and highly specific guide to the physical actions of [the] play’.[1] No element is accidental. Beckett splits each act into sub-divisions, which he further divides into numbered units based around specific actions; secondly, he looks at themes across the play as a whole, creating pages of notes for each and recording each associated line and stage direction. In the example shown here, Beckett lists each moment when Winnie smiles with a ‘Happy expression’ and their cause. As James Knowlson observes, notebooks like this ‘prove that [Beckett] was an excellent choreographer, with a talent for what he described as “form in movement”.’[2]

Happy Days

Originally composed in English in 1960–61, Happy Days is a two-act play that centres on the character of Winnie, who is buried in a mound up to her waist in Act 1, and then up to her neck in Act 2. Winnie passes her time endlessly chattering away and retrieving objects from her handbag. A bell wakes her from sleep, although there is no night and day, only constant burning sunlight. Her husband, Willie, crawls around the mound, remaining largely silent.

[1] Mary Bryden, Julian Garforth and Peter Mills, Beckett at Reading: Catalogue of the Beckett Manuscript Collection at The University of Reading (Reading: Whiteknights Press and the Beckett International Foundation, 1998), p. 50.

[2] James Knowlson, ‘Beckett, Samuel Barclay’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography <http://oxforddnb.com/view/article/40453?docPos=17> [Accessed August 2017].

Full title:
Manuscript notebook prepared by Samuel Beckett for his own production of Glückliche Tage at the Schiller Theater Werkstatt, Berlin, 17 September 1971.
Created:
1971
Format:
Manuscript / Notebook / Draft
Creator:
Samuel Beckett
Usage terms

Samuel Beckett: © The Estate of Samuel Beckett. The above selected images reproduced by kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett c/o Rosica Colin Limited, London.

© Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading

Held by
Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading
Shelfmark:
MS 1227/7/8/1

Full catalogue details

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An introduction to Happy Days

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