Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Modern Dramatic Experimentalism (Part 3 of 3)

To read Part 1, follow this link:

To read Part 2, follow this link:

“Happy Days” on the other hand is exploring an experiment to find out on what basis human beings get confirmed on their senses and themselves. Beckett again presents a very complex yet important idea through a play that is strange and charming at the same time. The way it’s written is very creative; it absolutely puts you in the mood of the play right away. You are reminded of some truths that you might know but have managed to ignore. It’s a play that makes you agitated, frustrated and anxious. Its untraditional form makes you laugh at serious things (same thing in “The Skin of our Teeth”, you laugh at things like the ice age and Noah’s ark) and you cry at funny ones. This disorientation and anxiousness that the writer puts you in helps you reflect the truth of the human condition. That’s why I think Beckett wrote “Happy Days” in this experimental form.

"Wait for the happy day to come when flesh melts at so many degrees and the night of the moon has so many hundred hours.” Winnie said (Happy Days)

This quote shows how Winnie is a psychologically complex person, she contradicts herself. She’s showing her eagerness and impatience towards death but at the same time she desires a life that never ends. I think everyone is full of contradictions just like Winnie; the family in “Six Characters in Search of an Author” constantly contradict themselves too. Her wish to die reveals a truth that she hides from herself and the idea that life is nothing but empty hours is disturbing. She seems very optimistic about life most of the time and she thinks everyday no matter what happened is a happy day yet she hopes to end life. This shows that the inward truth (Winnie’s truth) is very different from the outward appearance.

“Something of this is being heard, I am not merely talking to myself, that is in the wilderness, a thing I could never bear to do – for any length of time. (Pause.) That is what enables me to go on, go on talking that is. (Pause.) Whereas if you were to die – (smile) – to speak in the old style – (smile off) – or go away and leave me, then what would I do, what could I do, all day long, I mean between the bell for waking and the bell for sleep? (Pause.) Simply gaze before me with compressed lips” (Winnie)

The physicality of the character shows how helpless she is (She’s buried to her waist in Act I and to her neck in Act II). If you look at the details of this play you won’t understand it because it is in fact meaningless but if you look at it as a whole you’ll get what it’s about.

The central character “Winnie” too breaks one of the conventions of theatre (the actors are suppose to pretend they can’t see through the “fourth wall”) where at some point in the play talks about the audience’s reaction to the play.
“What’s she doing? he says – What’s the idea? he says – stuck up to her diddies in the bleeding ground – coarse fellow -What’s it meant to mean? … And you, she says, what’s the idea of you, she says, what are you meant to mean?...Why doesn’t he dig her out? he says – referring to you, my dear – What good is she to him like that? – What good is he to her like that? – and so on – usual tosh –…”, Winnie said (Happy Days).

Beckett invites us to watch Winnie’s life day by day, see how boring and monotonous it is, how she deals with it all, how each day is a happy day to her. He wants us to examine our own lives and consider them as “happy days”; he wants us to look at happiness as a concept, look at our every-day behaviors and think about the end of our life.

From my point of view, modern dramatic experimentalism originates from the need to express new methods of responsiveness. All the themes in experimental plays are “presented” because almost all the characters in these plays give the illusion that they are part of it (an illusion of reality) when they are not and they break the fourth wall a lot. The playwriting technique of the plays is very different. They have shorter lines, unfinished phrases and a very domestic language to it. All of them have the idea of “A play within a play” or “A play about a play” which is very untraditional. The aim of plays is not to expand the public appeal anymore; it just needs a “gifted” audience according to Ortego y Gasset. 

“A man likes a play when he has become interested in the human destinies presented to him, when the love and hatred, the joys and sorrows of the personages so move his heart that he participates in it all as though it were happening in real life”.

What amazed me the most is that the authors of these plays managed to present the stories or situations they have in their plays in a very truthful way that engages the audience’s attention and interest yet you can’t call any of these plays realistic. The authors didn’t try to make the illusion that these imaginary characters are like living persons. You are always reminded that you are watching a play. Even though you know none of this is true, the play takes hold of you nonetheless, challenges your mind, broadens your imagination and thoughts, makes you examine your life…etc. It’s as if you are a character yourself and I think that’s the beauty of it.

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