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Catastrophe

Samuel Beckett
 

Director (D).
His female assistant (A).
Protagonist (P).
Luke, in charge of the lighting, offstage (L).

Rehearsal. Final touches to the last scene. Bare stage. A and L have just set the lighting. D has just arrived.
D in an armchair downstairs audience left. Fur coat. Fur toque
to match. Age and physique unimportant.
A standing beside him. White overall. Bare head. Pencil on ear.
Age and physique unimportant.

P midstage standing on a black block 18 inches high. Black
wide-brimmed hat. Black dressing-gown to ankles. Barefoot.
Head bowed. Hands in pockets. Age and physique unimportant.

D and A contemplate P. Long pause.
A: [Finally.] Like the look of him?
D: So so. [Pause.] Why the plinth?
A: To let the stalls see the feet.
[Pause.]
D: Why the hat?
A: To help hide the face.
[Pause.]
D: Why the gown?
A: To have him all black.
[Pause.]
D: What has he on underneath? [A moves towards P.] Say it.
[A halts. ]
A: His night attire.
D: Colour?
A: Ash.
[D takes out a cigar.]
D: Light. [A returns, lights the cigar, stands still. D smokes.] How's the skull?
A: You’ve seen it.
D : I forget. [A moves towards P.] Say it.
[A halts.]
A: Moulting. A few tufts.
D: Colour?
A: Ash.
[Pause.]
D: Why hands in pockets?
A: To help have him all black.
D: They mustn't.
A: I make a note. [She takes out a pad, takes pencil, notes.]
Hands exposed.
[She puts back pad and pencil.]
D: How are they? [A at a loss. Irritably.] The hands, how are the hands?
A: You've seen them.
D: I forget.
A: Crippled. Fibrous degeneration.
D: Clawlike?
A: lf you like.
D: Two claws?
A: Unless he clench his fists.
D: He mustn't.
A: I make a note. [She takes out pad, takes pencil, notes.]
Hands limp.
[She puts back pad and pencil.]
D: Light. [A returns, relights the cigar, stands still. D smokes.]
Good. Now let's have a look. [A at a loss. Irritably.] Get going. Lose that gown. [He consults
his Chronometer
.]
Step on it, I have a caucus.
[A goes to P, takes off the gown. P submits, inert. A steps back, the gown over her arm.
P in old grey pyjamas, head bowed, fists clenched. Pause.]
A: Like him better without? [Pause.] He’s shivering.
D: Not all that. Hat.
[A advances, takes off hat, steps back, hat in hand. Pause.]
A: Like that cranium?
D: Needs whitening.
A: I make a note. [She takes out pad, takes pencil, notes.]
Whiten cranium.
[She puts back pad and pencil.]
D: The hands. [A at a loss. Irritably. ] The fists. Get going. [A advances, unclenches fists, steps
back.
] And whiten.
A: I make a note. [She takes out pad, takes pencil, notes.]
Whiten hands.
[She puts back pad and pencil. They contemplate P.]
D: [Finally. ] Something wrong. [Distraught. ] What is it?
A: [Timidly.] What if we were . . . were to . . . join them?
D: No harm trying. [A advances, joins the hands, steps back.] Higher. [A advances, raises waist
high the joined hands, steps back.
] A touch more. [A advances, raises breasthigh the
joined hands
.] Stop! [A steps back. ] Better. It's coming. Light.
[A returns, relights cigar, stands still. D smokes.]
A: He's shivering.
D: Bless his heart.
[Pause.]
A. [Timidly.] What about a little . . . a little . . . gag?
D: For God's sake! This craze for explicitation! Every i dotted to death! Little gag! For God's sake!
A: Sure he won't utter?
D: Not a squeak. [He consults his chronometer.] Just time. I’ll go and see how it looks from the
house.
[Exit D, not to appear again. A subsides in the armchair, springs to her feet no sooner
seated, takes out a rag, wipes vigorously back and seat of chair, discards rag, sits again.
Pause.
]
D: [Off, plaintive.] I can't see the toes. [Irritably.] I'm sitting in the front row of the stalls and can't
see the toes.
A: [Rising.] I make a note. [She takes out a pad, takes pencil, notes.] Raise pedestal.
D: There's a trace of face.
A: I make a note.
[She takes out pad, takes pencil, makes to note.]
D: Down the head. [A at a loss. Irritably.] Get going. Down his head. [A puts back pad and
pencil, goes to
P, bows his head further, steps back.] A shade more. [A advances, bows
the head further
.] Stop! [A steps back.] Fine. lt's coming. [Pause.] Could do with more nudity.
A: I make a note.
[She takes out pad, makes to take her pencil.]
D: Get going! Get going! [A puts back the pad, goes to P, stands irresolute.] Bare the neck. [A
undoes top buttons, parts the flaps, steps back. ] The legs. The shins. [A advances, rolls up to
below knee one trouser-leg, steps back.
] The other. [Same for other leg, steps back.] Higher.
The knees. [A advances, rolls up to above knees both trouser legs, steps back.] And whiten.
A: I make a note.
[She takes out pad, takes pencil, notes.] Whiten all flesh.
D: It's coming. Is Luke around?
A: [Calling.] Luke! [Pause. Louder.] Luke!
L: [Off, distant.] I hear you. [Pause. Nearer. ] What's the
trouble now?
A: Luke's around.
D: Blackout stage.
L: What?
[A transmits in technical terms. Fade-out of general light. Light on P alone. A in shadow.]
D: Just the head.
L: What?
[A transmits in technical terms. Fade-out of light on P's body. Light on head alone. Long
pause
.]
D: Lovely.
[Pause.]
A: [Timidly.] What if he were to . . . were to . . . raise his head . . . an instant . . . show his face . . .
just an instant.
D: For God's sake! What next? Raise his head? Where do you think we are? In Patagonia? Raise his
head? For God's sake! [Pause.] Good. There's our catastrophe. In the bag. Once more and
I'm off.
A: [To L.] Once more and he's off.
[Fade-up of light on P's body. Pause. Fade-up of general light. ]
D: Stop! [Pause.] Now . . . let ’em have it. [Fade-out of general light. Pause. Fade-out of light
on body. Light on head alone. Long Pause
.] Terrific! He’ll have them on their feet. I can hear
it from here.
[Pause. Distant storm of applause. P raises his head, fixes the audience. The applause falters, dies.
Long pause.
Fade-out of light on face.
]