Widely recognised as one of the greatest writers of the 20th
century, Irish-born playwright Samuel Beckett is still an essential
force in contemporary theatre and his work is frequently performed,
particularly his absurdist masterpiece Waiting For Godot,
which will be performed here at STC in November. To celebrate the
production, which will be directed by the great Tamas Ascher and
will star Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh, we are sharing 10
interesting facts about the life of Beckett…
* Beckett was a talented cricketer (distinguishing himself as a
left-handed opening batsman and medium-paced bowler), who played at
the first level for Dublin University on two occasions
* Beckett dated Lucia Joyce, daughter of his mentor James Joyce, in
1930 but called the relationship off when she showed signs of the
schizophrenia that later took hold of her. She spent the last 30
years of her life in an institution in Northampton where she was
periodically visited by Beckett.
* In 1938, on his way home from a night out with friends, Beckett
was stabbed in the street by a pimp. The knife went through his
chest, narrowly missing his heart, and he was nursed back to health
by doctors paid for by Joyce. At the trial for the crime the pimp,
amusingly called Monsieur Prudent, politely apologise for the
stabbing and said he didn't know why he did it. The charges were
* He spent much of his life in Paris and became a renowned member
of the artistic elite that congregated in Left Bank cafes in the
1920s and 1930s, sometimes playing chess with famous figures
including artists Alberto Giacometti and Marcel Duchamp.
* In 1937 he had a brief affair with American heiress Peggy
Guggenheim, and a year later developed a strong friendship with
Frenchwoman Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil. They married in 1961 and
remained together until her death in July, 1989, (he died five
months later), despite the fact that Beckett engaged in a
simultaneous relationship with British script-writer Barbara Bray
from the late 1950s until his death. Beckett and Dechevaux-Dumesnil
are buried together in the cemetery at Montparnasse in Paris.
* Beckett and Dechevaux-Dumesnil joined the French Resistance
movement in 1940, after the German Occupation, and after the war he
was recognised by the French government with two awards, the Croix
de guerre and Medaille de la Resistance.
* When Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969,
his wife is reported to have exclaimed "Quelle catastrophe!" as she
was concerned about the impact the prize would have on her
media-shy husband. He gave all the prize money away to
*Beckett wrote many of his plays in French as he felt that writing
in a non-native language allowed him to produce better,
* Beckett's last work, written in a nursing home in 1988, was a
poem titled 'Comment Dire' ('What is the word') that deals with the
difficulty of self-expression.
* Harold Pinter's final stage performance was in the title role of
Beckett's one-act monologue Krapp's Last Tape, which was
performed for the 50th anniversary of the Royal Court Theatre in
2006, just over a year before he died from liver cancer.
Godot, Sydney Theatre, 12 November - 14 December, 2013.