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Ohio Impromptu/Rough for Theatre/ I Not I

Ohio Impromptu opens with a striking visual impact. A figure clad in black, with long white hair hiding his face, sits on a white chair at a white table. In director Charles Sturridge’s film, Jeremy Irons plays both characters, the reader and the listener. The reader, it emerges, is a mysterious messenger from someone now dead and once loved by the listener. The book the reader narrates from tells of the listener mourning right up until the last moment when the story is told for the last time, and there is nothing left to tell. Film as a medium extends the idea of the play, says Sturridge. Beckett is a remover of anything that might misdirect the audience. He takes everything out except the absolute essentials in order to produce the purest, simplest line of thought. Ohio Impromptu captures that universally human emotion of losing the one you love the most and expresses
it in its purest and most terrifying form. (12 mins.)

Rough for Theatre I features a blind man and a cripple who meet by chance and consider the possibility of joining forces to unite sight and mobility in the interests of survival. Each man once had a woman, but now has no-one to help him. B is the pragmatist, while A keeps asking questions.
I have always admired Beckett’s work, having seen many of the plays and read all his novels, says director Kieron J. Walsh (When Brendan Met Trudy). I was quite daunted at the prospect of filming one of the plays, but when I read Rough for Theatre I, I immediately saw the cinematic possibilities. It reminded me a little of Laurel and Hardy, so I shot it on location, in black and white. This play is like a sketch for Endgame. The dialogue is brilliant and succinct and the themes are fresh and immediate. (With: David Kelly, Milo O’Shea. 19 mins.)

Not I features an actress seated on stage with just her mouth visible. The disembodied mouth delivers a long stream-of-consciousness monologue. Evasion is the principle theme, as highlighted by Beckett’s explicit note to the text, which states that the mouth’s chief endeavour throughout the play is her vehement refusal to relinquish the third person.
There are many reasons not to make a film of Not I,
says director Neil Jordan: the theatrical nature of the piece;
the impenetrable nature of the text; and Samuel Beckett’s alarmingly specific stage instructions. But there are as many reasons to make a film of Not I. Despite the theatrical nature of the piece, the startling image at the heart of it, an isolated mouth, could perhaps be better realised in the cinema.
The ideas in the impenetrable text only realise themselves through performance, through the physical demands of the delivery of the text. Working within the limits of Samuel Beckett’s stage instruction becomes oddly liberating, like etching a map of the world on a postage stamp. So, with [actress] Julianne Moore and [cinematographer] Roger Pratt, we filmed each angle in long, complete thirteen-minute takes, since the piece only reveals itself through the pressure of performance, through the demands Beckett makes on the breath, the voice, the mouth, the brain. (14 mins.)

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