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This chapter analyses the 2018 performance of Beckett’s novel Company directed by Sarah Jane Scaife with Company SJ. This production is particularly interesting in relation to adaptation for performance, as it created an intermedial dialogue between the original textual medium of the work and its theatrical performance through voice-over and the projection of phrases from the novel onto the back of the stage. Moreover, the live actor, Raymond Keane, was doubled not only by a voice-over but also by a sculptural figure, which enabled the ontological instabilities and layers of creature/creator in Beckett’s text to be presented on stage. Company SJ’s Company is therefore an apt case study for exploring how intermedial scenography can potentially challenge the association of live performance with the presence of the actor and the material space of the stage, forging new performance languages and embodiments that address our contemporary digital age.
Beckett’s Afterlives is the first book-length study dedicated to posthumous reworkings of Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre. Contextualised against the backdrop of his own developing views on adaptation and media specificity, it nuances the long-held view that he opposed any form of genre crossing. Featuring contemporary engagements with Beckett’s work from the UK, Europe, the USA and Latin America, the volume does not approach adaptation as a form of (in)fidelity or (ir)reverence. Instead, it argues that exposing the ‘Beckett canon’ to new environments and artistic practices enables fresh perspectives on the texts and enhances their significance for contemporary artists and audiences alike. The featured essays explore a wide variety of forms (prose, theatre, performance, dance, ballet, radio, music, television, film, visual art, installation, new/digital media, webseries, etc.), in different cultural contexts, mainly from the early 1990s until the late 2010s. The concept of adaptation is broadly interpreted, including changes within the same performative context, to spatial relocations or transpositions across genres and media, even creative rewritings of Beckett’s biography. The collection offers a range of innovative ways to approach the author’s work in a constantly changing world and analyses its remarkable susceptibility to creative responses. Viewed from this perspective, Beckett’s Afterlives suggests that adaptation, remediation and appropriation constitute forms of cultural negotiation that are essential for the survival as well as the continuing urgency and vibrancy of Beckett’s work in the twenty-first century.
This introductory chapter responds to the proliferation and diversification of adaptations of Beckett’s work across different genres and media since the author’s death in 1989. It summarises recent debates in the field of adaptation studies which has likewise expanded, reflecting critically on earlier debates and taking account of new media, while clarifying terminology that will return in the chapters that follow. These approaches resist the traditional value-laden hierarchy between ‘original’ and ‘adaptation’, offering instead different frameworks for analysing the cultural, aesthetic, political and media-specific, intermedial or transmedial contexts of each new version and its relationship to its source text/s or inspiration. Issues relating specifically to the status of Beckett as a canonical author in relation to cultural authority and ‘authorisation’ are included. These theoretical discussions lay the foundation for an introduction to this collection of essays on Beckett’s ‘afterlives’, which is the first book-length study to be devoted to Beckett and adaptation, although existing scholarly work in this area is noted as well. The rest of the Introduction summarises each chapter and the rationale for how they have been grouped in order to encourage resonances and dialogues between them.