Samuel Beckett’s plays aren’t easy. They aren’t meant to be.

They confront the sensibilities of the audience of what theatre is- what they are doing there- and in the half moments between being pleasantly immersed in the characters on stage- and the awareness that one is watching- there is a luminescence- “sitting here is how I am spending my life- this is my life- my life as a seated person in a black seat- watching a bright-voiced woman brush her teeth.”

Nothing could be more irritating for a contemporary audience- who must be and is reminded twice (once by microphoned voice of God technology) and once more by a pixie-haired usher- to turn off their mobile phones- “all the way off- not just on silent.” Nothing could annoy the business directors and the blackberry- obsessives in their Ralph Lauren shirts more than being told to sit there, sans electronic life-manipulator and watch a woman talk for two hours to the back of her husbands head. And nothing is more satisfying when these annoyed and irritated audience members creep out noisilly mid way through the production, out of the auditorium into a night full of missed calls and email alerts ….

Nothing is more satisfying because this show is not for them…. and they have naturally selected- their act of walking out is an act of cowardice. It illuminates their lack of curiousity, lack of imagination and their lack of compassion towards Winnie and Willy. And I do not at all, for one second begrudge them, their lack of compassion their lack of bravery when confronted by Michael Kantor’s production of HAPPY DAYS. Beckett is not for the faint spirited. Beckett’s crusade was to ask people to look at the hopeless, inexrable misery- and the striving of people to overcome the misery. That in itself is a beautiful and inspiring thing- life hurts and yet we continue to live it… inspite of that which can’t be helped- the toothpaste running out… the bell for sleep tolling constantly- we are still alive… remembering the moments of life that are forever lodged in us- conversations- pivotal moments of reckoning.

Kantor’s production feels very sharp- a post-911 New York rubble almost. It feels like the 1950’s- and yet transplanted in the new millenium. Forsyth gives a vocally gymnastic presentation… Peter Caroll perfectly minimal as Willy. Beautiful.

I enjoyed this production- and I watched the snoozing baby-boomers run ragged by their demanding jobs- I watched the whisper-chatting couples meander like giraffes up the black stairs to the exit. I enjoyed the desperately hopeful- the momentary remorse- the gentle sorrow and the routine clockwork effort that dictates Winnie’s life. ANd for me- it was all it needed to be… and a comfort to know that after nearly 50 years- this play evokes the same response as it did in 1960… walk outs.

Company B Belvoir presents a Malthouse Melbourne production
HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett
Director Michael Kantor
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: 6 November – 16 December 2009
Previews: 4 & 5 November. All preview tickets $34
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm, Wednesday to Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 5pm.
Tickets: Full $56. Seniors (excluding Fri/Sat evenings) and Groups 10+ $46. Concession $34. Student Rush $25 for Tuesday 6.30pm and Saturday 2pm, available from 10am on the day (subject to availability)
Bookings: 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au