''Night. As long as day in this endless equinox. It falls and we go on. Before dawn we are gone.''
The highly poetic short story First Love - Samuel Beckett's tribute to his father first published in its English version in 1973 - and the Fizzles short prose elements particularly Fizzles 6 'Old Earth' published sometime between 1973 and 1975 were the high points of Toby Jones' reading yesterday at the Beckett festival held in the spartan conditions of Enniskillen's Breandrum graveyard chapel packed to the gills for a 45 minute reading that preceded monsoon-like conditions locally.
Punters queuing to hear Toby Jones
'Old Earth' was the most astonishing of all. That remarkable line rang out - It’s a cockchafer year, next year there won’t be any, nor the year after, gaze your fill. Reading unamplified and usually quietly Jones only once having to shout when the enunciation demanded it the actor was ideal and brought clarity to the dark, morbid, often splutteringly funny texts - ripples of stifled or mostly unstifled laughter ringing out at several points, sometimes appropriate sometimes not because Beckett isn't always funny. You may end up laughing at yourself if not careful. Jones is no-nonsense and can do chilling well without even trying. He took the applause and bowed, patting the text in his hand - the demonstrable source of it all. You come away thinking in this graveyard setting and given the quiet subversion of Beckett's enduring morbidity as Hamlet did observing the skull remembering court jester Yorick that Beckett as anti-jester and a miserabilist's miserabilist bizarrely is also a ''fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.'' But make no mistake least of all Beckett or Jones no one is clowning around.
Spool to tones for Jones' bones
Toby Jones reading on the MV Kestrel
Sunday morning and a further reading from Krapp's Last Tape (1958) - Jones was stood at the stern of the Kestrel that departed the Round O after a tiny delay awaiting the inverter to supply the boat's voltage.
And what a very nice reading again, less dark more ruminative in character suiting the character of the remarkable play although one page seemed repeated possibly for emphasis, possibly not intended (who knows?), Jones, see photo above, was reading without any props not even the banana which arrived later in the play anyway and certainly not the tape recorder but didn't really need them. Because the way he can add tone and colour to the prose in the cadences of his speaking voice lifted us into the text.
The best bit was when he read from the ''Spiritually a year of profound gloom'' passage, Krapp, not yet in his dotage but not a million miles away in terms of grumpiness anyway, speaking of a memorable night in March ''at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing. The vision, at last.''
The rocking motion of the Nixons' boat tied up off Devenish round tower in sight and the wetness of the day added a miasma of gloom that worked. Earlier festival director Seán Doran had introduced Jones guiding us into what we were to hear with a few concise epithets delivered in his warm Derry accent.
Read more - Fizzles at Dusk
Toby Jones reading at Happy Days, top in the Breandrum graveyard chapel and on Lower Lough Erne close to Devenish Island, Fermanagh's most spiritual spot of all. Photos: marlbank