Sunday, July 6, 2014

Coming to terms with the density of what we see

Decollation of the St John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608 in the Co-Cathedral of Malta at Valetta
Beckett spent hours in front of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist in the cathedral in Valetta trying to come to terms with the saturation of visibility in Caravaggio's painting. Eventually the painting inspired the stage image for Not I (Sandra Wynands, Iconic Spaces: The Dark Theology of Samuel Beckett's Drama 40)
When played on stage, Not I requires a nearly naked and unnaturally dark stage set that bleeds into the undisguised dark of the auditorium. The solitary actress is cloaked, boxed, and elevated above the black painted stage with only her mouth opening and closing, cleanly and clearly, against the dark, teeth visible and disturbingly white, lit by a single spotlight. Located downstage from the Mouth, a tall figure, the Listener, cloaked from head to toe in black, hands and face covered with fabric, stands also elevated above the stage platform (Tia Ballentine "To and Fro in Shadow: Not I")
"when suddenly she felt . . . gradually she felt . . . her lips moving . . . imagine! . . her lips moving! . . as of course till then she had not . . . and not alone the lips . . . the cheeks . . . the jaws . . . the whole face . . . all those- . . what?. . the tongue? . . yes . . . the tongue in the mouth . . . all those contortions without which . . . no speech possible . . ."- Samuel Beckett from Not I

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