marlbank: On Morton Feldman and his work with Beckett how is Neither for you distinct from Words and Music in terms of tone and mood?
Liam Browne: Neither was written for a solo high soprano voice and the text is stretched across a one hour-long period making the text indistinct whereas every word in Words and Music is accounted for and is spoken rather than sung. Different genres of course, one is prose/short story and the other a play. Beckett didn’t approve of one genre being transferred into another which is why in our rendering of neither on bespoke billboards we are treating the billboards as the page.
marlbank: The text seems very fitting for the project given the Brexitian inferno we are entering and the perils of our geography. When did you read it for the first time and what did you enjoy most about it?
Liam Browne: The text is indeed fitting for a border location, a limbo-land, because it is a very liminal text. It was Seán [Doran] who first came across it and when he was Artistic Director and CEO of English National Opera he commissioned the American choreographer Merce Cunningham to stage it with his dance company at ENO, the Festival d’Automne in Paris and at the Lincoln Center in New York. Unfortunately Seán resigned from ENO before it could happen but it did transpose into another work by Cunningham and the artist Robert Rauschenberg.
marlbank: A word about Martin McDonagh as the idea is I am guessing a riff on his recent film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Perhaps there is more a Friel comparison to be made with his work in the theatre eg The Beauty Queen of Leenane, would you say?
Liam Browne: To give credit where it’s due, Seán had the idea before the film came out. But the film of course gave the project a title that people recognised. As for McDonagh and Friel, I don’t feel there’s a strong connection. Synge of course is the obvious influence on McDonagh. With Friel so much is internal, language is what matters, whereas McDonagh’s work is much more physical.
marlbank: How do you see the style of McDonagh fitting in with Beckett, or for that matter W. B. Yeats in the tradition of Irish playwrights?
Liam Browne: The connection that comes to mind between Beckett and McDonagh is that their work can be very stylised at times, something is very definitely being enacted on stage. But violence in Beckett is internalised, it’s there as a hint, a threat, whereas with McDonagh it’s all there in front of you.
marlbank: The ‘more’ bit in your project is intriguing. In other words more of what?
Liam Browne: I wouldn’t read too much into that. ‘More’ in the sense of more than three billboards, nothing else.
marlbank: Finally on Yeats’ ‘The Tower’: how does his sense of “absurdity” and “a fading gleam” for you contrast to Beckett’s?
Liam Browne: ‘The Tower’ of course was the inspiration for Beckett’s television play ……but the clouds…. which we’re also screening in the festival as part of The Devenish Triptych. Yeats and Beckett share a certain melancholy and as they both aged a fascination with the body/mind duality, the mind as sharp as ever but the body beginning to fail.