by Samuel Beckett
Running time: Two hours, five minutes, no interval
„Nothing is funnier than unhappiness!”
Happy days? An apocalyptic landscape, a woman buried to her waist, unable to move, sinking deeper and deeper into the ground. Nearby her husband, no homo erectus either, but a slightly deaf, sleepy, taciturn quadruped, who can only move forward by crawling. Other people who could help are found only in the memories of the incessantly babbling woman. But in stark contrast to the catastrophic external situation, the woman actually appears as the epitome of happiness – passing her time with all sorts of random items she produces from her bag, rarely expressing anger or despondency, pleased with the most insignificant events, and smiling with unflinching optimism at her fate. The situation is paradoxical and typical of Beckett’s writing. He ironically undermines the woman’s discourse of happiness by the continuous deterioration of the circumstances, until in the end she has almost completely sunken into the ground and is merely able to move her eyes. Women and men, Winnie and Willie – all are accomplices of their own destiny. They don’t demand to be released, they don’t fight against their situation. They are perfectly adapted to their way of life. That is their tragedy, but it is also outrageously funny, and this is where the political dimension of Beckett’s work is revealed: the audience bears witness to their final hour. The cause of the disaster remains hidden, open to interpretation, but one thing is certain: man surrenders and affirms his demise.
»Happy Days« – one of the most visionary texts of the twentieth century – premiered in 1961 in New York. It is staged by the British director Katie Mitchell, who recently celebrated great success at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus with »The Rest Will Be Familiar to You from the Cinema«
Photos © Klaus Lefebvre