'Worstward Ho is a must if you love Beckett'
'you may just find the sublime.'
'truly impressive, and truly moving.'
Australian Book Review
'he makes it look effortless'
What Did She Think
'Here is a phenomenon you may never see again in your lifetime so cherish it.'
BY SAMUEL BECKETT
24 MAY - 3 JUNE, 2023
Rear Laneway 67 Inkerman Street, St Kilda.
Wed 24 May 7:30pm
Thu 25 May 7:30pm
Fri 26 May 7:30pm
Sat 27 May 7:30pm
Tue 30 May 7:30pm
Wed 31 May 7:30pm
Thu 1 June 7:30pm (Q&A)
Fri 2 June 7:30pm
Sat 3 June 7:30pm
Full price $45.00
Mob Tix $20.00
On. Say on. Somehow on . Till all at last is gone.
The Australian premiere of Samuel Beckett’s final major piece of writing, Worstward Ho. Widely recognised as ‘one of the supreme poetic texts of the 20th century,’ it is, however, little known, rarely read and even more rarely presented. It is vital that we give this classic its due attention, infusing it with new life, revealing its critical relevance for our times. The solo performer, Rob Meldrum, has been a treasured figure in Melbourne theatre for 5 decades, and this will be an ambitious artistic challenge for him, tackling a text so complex, so desperate, so revolutionary and so urgent.
Daily news constantly reminds us that our human race is at a critical watershed moment. We are urged to change our ways of inhabiting this world, lest we tip our planet and its life-forms over the edge of extinction. The enemies to this necessary shift are the forces of greed, power, misleading rhetoric and the constant accumulation of material possessions. In Worstward Ho, we watch an individual like ourselves facing up to these dark forces, tackling the task of shedding all elements and words unnecessary to the sheer continuation of life. He displays a moving, determined, often hilarious, absolutely essential commitment.
In its unrelenting need to keep gnawing at the problem, Worstward Ho often has a crazed state about it, bordering on a kind of psychotic heroism. However, it is never glum or self-important. There is a refreshing lightness of tone, a kind of dry humour and a refusal to indulge in emotionality or spectacle. In his very normal daily setting, a man thinks aloud while constantly pacing his room.
Worstward Ho is truly a parable for our times.
VICTORIAN THEATRE COMPANY AT THEATRE WORKS
Worstward Ho appeared in publication in 1983: it was its 40th anniversary just a few weeks ago. Also, in 1983, the literary critic Al Alvarez wrote about How It Is, another of Beckett’s tricky texts:
“... despite its formidable appearance the work is always coherent, once the reader has laboriously tuned in to its difficult wave length. Even at its most disintegrated, when the shattered syntax is scarcely that of the gasp, there is a kind of clenched lucidity about Beckett’s writing that somehow justifies one’s efforts. … With patience and concentration, the reader need never be at a loss. The difficulties are all public and resolvable.”
Of course, it has been our aim in presenting Worstward Ho, whose difficult wave-length we have been patiently decoding for ourselves for over 3 years, to bring to you its hard-won coherence and lucidity. But, at the same time we do not want to avoid its ‘clenchedness.’
Here is a man, on his own, grappling with the task of thinking about central, existential questions. But it is not in the resolution of those questions that the fascination of the text lies. It is in the task of thinking itself: its dis/integration, its shatteredness. In our private moments, we don’t think like logicians write: our thinking breaks into unexpected detours, obsessive repetitions, moments of wry humour, deep emotion etc. It is in this way that the gems of revelation arise – if indeed they do.
The little sparkle, hid in ashes, the precious margaret hid from many, and the thing that the conversationalist, with his contempt of the tag and ready-made, can’t give you because the lift to the high spot is precisely from the tag and the ready-made. The same with the stylist. You couldn’t experience a margarita because he denies you the pebbles and flints that reveal it. The uniform, horizontal writing flowing without accidence, of the man with a style, never gives you the margarita. (Beckett on Writing)
This is a prose text; but Beckett is always the most physical of writers. One of our guides in putting it into action has been this passage from Deirdre Bair’s biography of Samuel Beckett:
Bill Beckett bought an automobile that year, a Swift, and Beckett drove it around Trinity very badly but with enormous style. He shifted gears with sweeping, dramatic arm movements, and involved his entire torso in negotiating turns. He made blowing the horn a musical art and parking was an exercise in dance and mathematics with an occasional fillip from the latest Mack Sennett comedy.
Dance, mathematics and the occasional fillip – welcome to Worstward Ho.
RICHARD MURPHET - DIRECTOR
Richard has been writing, directing and creating contemporary forms of theatre for 5 decades. His plays have received productions throughout Australia and internationally, and he has worked as a director in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Toronto, New York, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Ghent.
His plays include: Quick Death (1979), Slow Love (1983), Dolores and the Department Store (1999), The Inhabited Woman (2003), The Inhabited Man (2009), The Darkening Sky (2019)
Recent Productions include: A double bill of Quick Death and Slow Love (La Mama, 2015); a double bill of two Belgian plays, Four Men and Dog Play (Elvis Peeters: La Mama, 2017); In the Solitude of Cotton Fields (B-M Koltes: La Mama, 2019); Broken River (Tony Reck: La Mama, 2019), and The Darkening Sky (Murphet: Theatre Works, 2021). He will direct Julius Caesar for Melbourne Shakespeare Company in August.
Murphet worked at the Victorian College of the Arts for 2 decades where he was Head of Drama (2007-2009) and Head of Postgraduate Studies (1996 – 2006). He was a member of the Australian Performing Group, and the Artistic Director of the Mill Theatre Company. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in theatre at the Australian Greenroom Awards (2017). His book on Late-Modernist theatre practice, Acts of Resistance, was published by Brill Publications, Amsterdam in 2020.
RICHARD MURPHET - PREVIOUS WORK
'The Inhabited Woman represents a floating world, a disconnected place in which both audience and on-stage figures drift into dreamy, atemporal states, before one suddenly catches one’s breath and lightly steps forward into the next, deliberately artificial, theatrical realm. Like tide lapping at a shore, the production beckons and captures the audience before releasing its grip to leave us resting again on the soft surface of a dramaturgical shoreline.'
Review of The Inhabited Woman, Real Time, 2003.
'The production of The Inhabited Man is a multi-dimensional feat which daringly employs an intoxicating collision of intense audio and layered visual text. The result is a production which not only reinforces the story-telling reach of Murphet’s script, but also intensifies the theatre experience for audiences. The Inhabited Man is a riveting and thought-propelling play about a man snared in the horrific embrace of a war which never ends.'
Review of The Inhabited Man. Australian Stage, 2009.
‘It is the physicality of the production which most impresses. We sense the possibility of something new, something beyond the serried repetitions of the silver screen.’
Review of Quick Death and Slow Love, Real Time, 2015.
‘This is what the theatre can be... And those engaged in the craft should see and remember this. productions such as this that may be all we have left to sustain communities in that desire to express the inexpressible. Please, do get along and see it.’
Review of The Absence of Knowing, Melbourne Theatre Blog, 2017.
‘This production of Bernard-Marie Koltes’ play is a testimony to personal courage and conviction, unqualified intellectual rigour, the endeavour of a lifetime, and a homage to the theatre as it is yet to
Review of The Solitude of the Cotton Fields, Melbourne Theatre Blog, 2019.
ROBERT MELDRUM - ACTOR
Rob Meldrum has been working as an actor, director and lecturer in acting and voice for over 45 years. He was originally a member of the Australian Performing Group for 6 years at the Pram Factory in Melbourne, where he performed in Dimboola, The Floating World, River Jordan, Mary Shelley and the Monsters, The Hills Family Show, Back to Bourke St. During this time, and under the umbrella of the APG he co-formed Stasis an experimental theatre group who performed to popular and critical acclaim The Young Peer Gynt. Since that time, he has performed with all the major State Theatre Companies in shows including: The Tempest, Scenes From an Execution for South Australian Theatre Company; Miss Julie, She Stoops to Conquer, The Island for Melbourne Theatre Company; The Misanthrope, Woman in Mind, The Three Sisters for Sydney Theatre Company; Brittanicus, Antony and Cleopatra, Speaking in Tongues for Playbox Theatre Company. He has been nominated three times for best actor in the Green Room Awards, and won the award in 1998 as part of Best Ensemble. He was a member of the Bell Shakespeare Ensemble for two years where he performed in five productions: Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Richard 111 and As You Like It. More recently he performed in the highly acclaimed four seasons of L’Amante Anglaise at La Mama and Forty-Five Downstairs (which toured nationally in 2019); and recently for La Mama in Four Men, The Chairs, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields. He was a lecturer in acting at the Drama School VCA for 8 years, is currently the voice teacher for Brave Studios, and sessional lecturer in acting with the National Theatre Drama School. Among other commitments he has a private practice as a vocal and acting coach and has recorded over 25 audio books for Bolinda Publishing.
SAMUEL BECKETT - PLAYWRIGHT
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, dramatist, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. His literary and theatrical work features bleak, impersonal and tragicomic experiences of life, often coupled with black comedy and nonsense. It became increasingly minimalist as his career progressed, involving more aesthetic and linguistic experimentation, with techniques of repetition and self-reference. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the Theatre of the Absurd.
A resident of Paris for most of his adult life, Beckett wrote in both French and English. During the Second World War, Beckett was a member of the French Resistance group Gloria SMH (Réseau Gloria). Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation".
Beckett wrote Worstward Ho in 1983.