'You’re on earth, there’s no cure for that,’
according to the stress-pattern the actor’s voice imposes on its principal terms; if, for example, on ‘cure’, this of itself would not preclude other worthwhile possibilities for our terrestial condition, and if on ‘that’, there could be an implicit invitation to countenance other-worldly aspirations and so on and so on
The actress Siân Phillips described rehearsals for the television production of Eh Joe as working to the rhythm of a metronome: ‘It was explained to me that every punctuation mark had a precise value and I began metronoming my way through the text ... gradually remembering that a full stop is not a colon is not a hyphen is not an exclamation mark is not a semicolon.’ It made her ill.
Even Billie Whitelaw, the actress who formed an almost symbiotic working relationship with Beckett, nearly withdrew from the production of Happy Days, after the trauma of doing Not I, telling the Director of the Royal Court that she ‘could no longer endure the strain of Sam’s obsession with the pronunciation, tone and emphasis of each syllable of every word’. ‘Just a few small precise motions’ rather understates the intensity of Beckett’s directorial regime. He knew exactly what he wanted and it was a very great deal. While he was endlessly patient with his actors, he could also drive them to distraction, and even close to breakdown