Mise-en-scene: Beckett's 'Field of Memory'

Twitchin, Mischa. 2014. Mise-en-scene: Beckett's 'Field of Memory'. Critical Stages (Journal of International Theatre Critics Association), 10, ISSN 2409-7411 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In conversation with Stanley Gontarski, Beckett observed that, while his last play What Where, “was written for the theatre… it’s much more a television play than a theatre piece.” Rather than detail the textual differences between the play as written (or, indeed, rewritten) for theatre or television, the following discussion looks at examples of the play’s mise en scène (including Beckett’s own) to try to make sense of writing for one medium when read in the light of another. How does an idea of mise en scène come into question through one medium (writing, stage or screen), when this medium is itself put into question by another (instead of being simply subsumed by it, as McLuhan famously observed)? This question is distinct from a simple “adaptation” (in which the conventions of one medium are presupposed by the possibilities of another). Rather, it concerns how the play’s aesthetic resistance to such conventions in one medium (manifested in its mise en scène) insists or returns in those of another. With respect to the Dublin film version of What Where, the discussion engages the concept of mise en scène with the aesthetic politics of a now neglected sense of “medium” within modernist art practices, which is itself more or less contemporary with the epistemologically distinct (and also often neglected) sense of mise en scène (analysed particularly by Patrice Pavis [2013]). This is to recall issues that seem forgotten in a “post-medium” culture, addressing what Beckett called the play’s “Field of Memory.” Evoking the actors’ playing space with this term, Beckett marks the question of mise en scène as belonging specifically to the word play of 'What Where'.

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Additional Information:

Dossier on Mise-en-scéne (Patrice Pavis, ed.)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP) > The Pinter Centre for Performance and Creative Writing (PCPCW)


1 October 2014Published Online

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Date Deposited:

30 May 2017 10:27

Last Modified:

19 Sep 2017 14:48

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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