Samuel Beckett – ‘Play’ (diffused)

- a multichannel audio-theatric experience

by assistant professor Merlyn Luke Perez-Silva

Absurdist author and playwright Samuel Beckett sought to disrupt the theatrical homogeny, reducing the cathartic role of the actor to barely-intelligible dialog under bizarre staging conditions. Beckett dreamt of removing the idea of the ‘actor’ entirely, and letting the percussive and claustrophobic nature of his prose take center stage in creating a theatric experience.

Merlyn Perez-Silva, Adjunct at RAMA, adapted one of Beckett’s seminal work Play into a multichannel audio-theatric experience. The piece sought to investigate some key arguments:

  1. Beckett’s textual interpretation of the Absurd has become a reality today due to the decentralised ‘cyborg’ nature of how we communicate.
  2. Twitter, YouTube videos and SoMe commentary has naturally fostered a ‘Beckettian’ frame for language and communication within it’s post-capitalist drive for post-human efficiency.
  3. Beckett sought to remove the idea of ‘actor’ from his plays, and let the text take center stage. Ambisonics and other immersive sound technologies were not accessible while Beckett was alive and working – would he have looked in this direction as a means to achieve his goals as a dramatist?
  4. How might a sound artist respond to the challenges of sonification in translating a play to the purely aural domain?
  5. The play demands endless repetitions – by using different voices in space, is there a moment when the absurdity of the experience is overwhelming, and we simply experience “sounds’ and not narrative?

Interpreting both Beckett’s staging comments and his overall philosophy into a 3D sound stage, Merlyn used a combination of voice recordings and electro-acoustic composition to express Beckett’s work over a looping, immersive sound installation, that was premiered in Autumn 2022.

Listen to a binaural mix of the exposition. Should be experienced using headphones.

See Merlyn’s poster from RAMA Research seminar 2022