2022-23 Programme of the London Beckett Seminar

The programme of the London Beckett Seminar has been published on our website. The next seminar will take place tomorrow, 21 October, at 6-7pm (BST):

Dr Hannah Simpson (The University of Edinburgh), “Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance”

To receive a link to attend, please email londonbeckettseminar@gmail.com.

Details below, with our best wishes – enjoy it!


Dr Hannah Simpson (The University of Edinburgh), “Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance”

Samuel Beckett’s plays have attracted a striking range of disability performances—that is, performances that cast disabled actors, regardless of whether their roles are explicitly described as “disabled” in the text. What is it about Beckett’s stage plays that attracts disability performance? What does a performance that translates a Beckett script in explicitly disabled terms do to our understanding of that text, or to our understanding of Beckett’s work more broadly? Or, more specifically: what do such performances reveal about these playtexts’ persistent concern with the conditions of embodied existence, and with the impaired body and mind?

Drawing on my new monograph, Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance, this talk addresses these questions with reference to historic and contemporary disability performances of Beckett’s work, and a new theorising of Beckett’s “disability aesthetic”. Hanna Marron as Winnie (Happy Days, dir. Michael Guvrin, 1985), Harold Pinter as Krapp (Krapp’s Last Tape, dir. Ian Rickson, 2006), Nabil Shaban and Garry Robson, and Dan Moran and Chris Jones as Hamm and Clov (Endgame, dir. Robert Rae, 2007, and Joe Grifasi, 2012), Jess Thom as Mouth (Not I, dir. Matthew Pountney, 2017), and Tommy Jessop and Otto Baxter as Vladimir and Estragon (Waiting for Godot, dir. Sam Curtis Lindsay and Daniel Vais, 2018): these productions emphasise or rework previously undetected indicators of disability in Beckett’s work. More broadly, they reveal how Beckett’s theatre compulsively interrogates alternative embodiments, unexpected forms of agency, and the extraordinary social interdependency of the human body.

HANNA SIMPSON is Lecturer in Drama and Performance in the Department of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She previously served as the first Rosemary Pountney Junior Research Fellow in British and European Theatre at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford. She is the author of Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Witness: Pain in Post-War Francophone Drama (Oxford University Press, 2022) and Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022). She is also Theatre Review Editor for The Beckett Circle and welcomes contact from anyone interested in reviewing for us.