From now until mid-June, ETB | IPAC will present a series of notable Irish guest performances as well as a brand-new production of the Irish classic Happy Days as part of ZEITGEIST IRLAND 24, a season of Irish arts and culture in Germany, funded by Culture Ireland.
Before we present six award-winning shows by Pan Pan, Brokentalkers, Pat Kinevane, Eva O’Connor and Dee Mulrooney as part of the three-week festival IRISH THEATRE BERLIN in May and June, our new production of the dystopian classic Happy Days by Irish playwright and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett, directed by Walter D. Asmus, a long-time collaborator and friend of Beckett, marks the beginning of our focus on Ireland.
“Oh this is going to be another happy day!” – Winnie
Under a mute sky of blazing light; Winnie, sunk to her waist in a mound of sand, and her husband Willie, mostly immobile in a cave behind her, attempt to cope with their doomed situation.
Winnie, “a bird with oil on her feathers“, as Beckett once described her, is woken by a bell “piercingly sharp like a knife“ that ignites her daily survival routine and quest to engage Willie with every aspect of it. Winnie‘s insatiable need for human connection and Willie’s unwillingness or inability to answer it, contribute to their “nec cum te and nec sine te” / “neither with you nor without you” bond, full of tragicomic moments, culminating in an ambiguous surprise once Winnie is neck-deep in the sand.
Happy Days first premiered in 1961 in New York and has since then unquestionably become a classic of the modern stage. In 2022, The Independent named it one of the 40 best plays of all time. More than six decades later, Beckett’s darkly comic vision of the apocalypse and the banality that comes after remains as timely as the day he wrote it.
Walter Asmus collaborated with Samuel Beckett on numerous theater and television productions from 1974 until the author’s death in 1989. He has directed all of Samuel Beckett’s plays internationally. His 1991 production of Waiting for Godot at Dublin’s Gate Theatre was revived multiple times, toured internationally until as late as 2008 and was accepted by critics and academics alike as “definitive”.
The role of Winnie is played by Berlin-based Irish actor Mary Kelly. Mary has performed extensively in Ireland, including at the Gate Theatre, and in Germany most regularly at English Theatre Berlin | International Performing Arts Center.
The role of Willie is played by Tomas Spencer, who began his career at ETB | IPAC in the early 2000s and has gone in to appear in numerous films and television programs, including The Last Station, Nymphomaniac and Passport To Freedom.