Home » London Theatre Reviews » Happy Days by Samuel Beckett at Riverside Studios | Review

Happy Days by Samuel Beckett at Riverside Studios | Review

Samuel Beckett’s words ricochet, run and reverberate through the room, his senseless wisdom washes over me as I sit on the edge of my seat. Happy Days demonstrates how in absurd times, the absurd might be the only way to relate to subjective experience.

Happy Days. Lisa Dwan (Winnie). Credit - Helen Maybanks.
Happy Days. Lisa Dwan (Winnie). Credit – Helen Maybanks.

Absurdism was born out of post-war existentialism and a serious part of me wonders if absurdism is due a revival in an attempt to relate to what we have been through over the last year and a bit. I think this especially because anything on stage which is directly covid related viscerally repels me.

Happy Days is set in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world, the first 15 minutes are spent discussing the purity of a toothbrush, and yet it is gently funny. It somehow manages to get to the heart of how we live in minutes and lingers in the mind of the audience. Not much happens, it is essentially a woman talking to her partner about what to do. Both the script and the interpretation of the script are very traditional, there is religious imagery, affronting existentialism and eloquent tragicomedy.

Lisa Dwan shines, her dedication to Beckett is evident. Despite only her head being visible, she embodies whatever isn’t happening completely, and it is a joy to watch.

The design relays back to what has perhaps been a cliche of Beckett, positioning this play in a post-apocalyptic world and I found this to be a tad dull, but then again it is a cliche for a reason. Lisa Dwan’s torso and eventually only her head is visible, this restriction of expression is effective, and a hallmark of Beckett. The sound design is good, echoing words and slight distortions offset the relatability nicely.

My criticism of this show lies in that while the writing is (no surprise) brilliant, the acting is great, sometimes it loses momentum. Beckett has this trick of moving the focus around a lot while keeping the meaning completely still, but I think this interpretation fails, at times, to keep the audience sustained.

I adore Beckett, so this was great to watch, and it reaches into me in ways not much else does, but that might just be me. In the same way that dance is beautiful to watch, Beckett’s writing is so transcendent to listen to, perhaps the dramaturgy lets it down, it is worth a watch.

3 Star Review

Review by Tom Carter

‘Nothing more to say, nothing more to do’
Winnie and her husband Willie are stuck in every sense of the word. Endless days and nights pass by while they struggle on, with only each other for company.

The 60th-anniversary production of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece Happy Days, directed by Trevor Nunn. Simon Wolfe plays Willie and Lisa Dwan as Winnie. Completing the creative team are designer Robert Jones (Fiddler on the Roof, Quiz), lighting designer Tim Mitchell (Upstart Crow, Kinky Boots), sound designer Johnny Edwards (Moorcroft), production manager Matt Towell (Waitress, Come From Away), and costume supervisor Kate Hemstock (The Full Monty, We Will Rock You).

Anthology Theatre, in association with Riverside Studios
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Riverside Studio
101 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London W6 9BN
11 June – 25 July 2021


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