Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Not I

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In the work of a dramatist where the unusual is the usual, Not I, written in the spring of 1972, is one of the most unusual and dramatic of the Beckett canon. The light focuses on a disembodied female mouth in constant ebullition, visible at a level of about eight feet above the stage. In seventeen minutes the mouth reviews “her” three-score-and-ten, at a speed which is all but exhausting for both actress and audience. An “auditor” raises his arms from time to time “in a gesture of helpless compassion.”

On Christmas Day 1972 Beckett wrote to George Reavey that with Billie Whitelaw in the cast and with Jocelyn Herbert’s set he was hopeful for the play. It was more than two years before the French version—Pas Moi—opened, paired, as in the London production, with Krapp’s Last Tape.