Pan Pan and Beckett: Playing with the Medium

Pan Pan have staged a number of Samuel Beckett’s plays in innovative ways and across a range of Beckett’s works, including those originally written for radio as well as for the stage. Pan Pan premiered a new stage production of Beckett’s All That Fall at Dublin’s Project arts Centre. Directed by Gavin Quinn with lighting and sound by Aedín Cosgrove, the production invited audience members into a darkened auditorium, spotlight with hanging light strips, where each were then seated in a rocking chair and invited to listen to the play through individual headphones. While Beckett intended the play for radio only, New York Times critic Jason Zinoman commented that “Gavin Quinn’s radical production goes further in honouring the spirit of Beckett’s wish, situating the play in the realm of pure imagination”. The production toured to great acclaim across Ireland and internationally, from New York to Sydney and London to Brisbane. All That Fall was awarded Best Sound Design and Best Lighting Design at the Irish Times Theatre Awards 2011 and winner of the Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival 2013.

Following on from All That Fall, Pan Pan staged another of Beckett’s radio plays in 2013, Embers. First broadcast in 1959, Pan Pan described the play as one which “takes us on a journey into the haphazard world of Henry’s imagination, a world of ever-shifting mental leaps, ruminations and ambiguities where creative storytelling and unfinished memories both real and unreal coalesce into one.” The centre of the stage was dominated by a large skull, constructed by Andrew Clancy and large enough for cast members to stand inside, signifying the voices within one’s own monologue and memory. Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman commented “Pan Pan have created a marriage of theatre and installation that seems to capture the hard, loving and implacable soul of the work, while giving it a new theatrical life”.

Pan Pan also produced Beckett’s short exploration of form, space, movement, and geometry, Quad, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Arts Festival in 2013. Pan Pan returned to Dublin’s Project Arts Centre in November 2019 with a new production of Beckett’s Endgame, which starred Andrew Bennett, Des Keogh, Rosaleen Linehan and Antony Morris, the last in-person production before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down public events and theatres from March 2020. Pan Pan produced a promenade audio production of Beckett’s Cascando as part of the 2021 Galway International Arts Festival. Listening through headphones, the hooded and cloaked audience members followed a walking route through Galway city while immersed in the words of Beckett’s play which was voiced by Daniel Riordan and Andrew Bennett.

Through all of Pan Pan’s engagement with the works of Samuel Beckett is a sensory immersion in the words, sounds, places, and emotions of Beckett’s dramatic worlds. Straddling spheres of theatre, radio, instillation, visual art, and digital media, Pan Pan have presented the elements of Beckett’s broad ranging dramatic compositions, for the stage and for radio, bringing them into new focus and collision, while inviting audiences into a world of imagination and liveness through a range of media.

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