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Acting Beckett : towards a poetics of performance

Head, Andrew J. N.


Andrew J. N. Head


Richard Boon

Christian M.,1968 Billing


Samuel Beckett’s writing stalks the progress of twentieth century art and culture. Seen as both symptomatic of the practices of high Modernism, as well as influential within the fragmented tropes of postmodernity, his drama is often referred to as exploring the limits of an incrementally reductive approach to performance in which fine margins – through time and space; sound and image – are used in the determination of an authentic rendering of his work. This study argues that it is the figure of the actor, in all its rich signifying complexity, which provides us with a lens through which we can evaluate Beckett’s work for theatre and other media.

In considering the Beckettian actor, the study grounds a poetics of performance in a principally phenomenological discourse in which theatre history and popular culture throughout the twentieth century is seen as a key factor both in Beckett’s writing and theatre directing, as well as in the often contested development of the actor’s craft. Throughout, it is the theme of music and musicality that provides the actor with a starting point, or modus vivendi, in which the individual self or personality of the actor is valorized alongside other practices based on acquired technique and its application.

This study does not propose instruction or a range of techniques for the actor to pursue in furthering their understanding of Beckett’s canon. Instead, this work establishes an understanding of the Beckettian actor in which strategies of implication, born out of sometimes paradoxical representations of silence, absence and abstraction, subordinate acting pedagogies based on programmed curricula. This examination of an implied actor illustrates the various ways in which notable, as well as relatively unknown, actors have sought to reconcile some of these issues. In doing so, the study also interrogates my own creative practice as a director and performer of Beckett’s drama over a fifteen-year period.


Head, A. J. N. (2015). Acting Beckett : towards a poetics of performance. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Feb 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Drama
Public URL
Additional Information School of Drama, Music and Screen, The University of Hull


Thesis (18.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Head, Andrew J. N. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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