Sunday, 20 March 2011

The best performance I've ever seen: Rona Munro

Happy Days, Dundee Rep, 2007

I had hardly seen any Samuel Beckett before, but I went to see this production of Happy Days partly because I knew Alison Peebles, who played the lead, Winnie. She was just staggering and absolutely sold me the play. She made me understand why it is a classic.

I felt there was a universal human truth coming out of the writing and the performance. Writers lay down a sort of blueprint but they can only hope it is going to achieve a certain effect, because you are asking an actor to portray something that is impossible to put into words.

There was this person on stage gradually being entrapped, immobilised and deprived of all pleasures, and yet every time Alison came back with that phrase "Happy days!" it was funny. I think Winnie is a role you would probably have to approach by taking a deep breath because you have got to not just get the pain and the desperation, but the humour as well, the way Alison did. That's why it's so heartbreaking and what makes it about everybody as well as just being about one character.

The other thing is that Alison had suffered from MS, which she is quite open about. Reading the reviews and commentaries, what struck me is that people barely remarked on it. That just said it all. I forgot that I knew her, and that is a tribute to her performance. I was watching the character instead.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy it. I had nothing against Beckett ? it was just utter ignorance, which I can't defend. But the play overcame my resistance. It made me think about what you can do on stage and how far you can go. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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