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Chin Up

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Warner echoes Shaw’s notion of a participatory audience but turns to a different metaphor: “It’s a scripted but, in feel, improvised chat between Winnie and the audience. It has the quality of improvised jazz. Beckett’s taking us to a place almost beyond language. That’s why it’s modern. The silence has to be full and complex and different each time.”

Shaw now finds herself in thrall to the grim beauty of Winnie’s monologue, which she describes as “the aria of the person who is stuck but is not bitter. These are wonderful moments when someone strokes eternity into the moment. I’ve always thought Beckett is the very end of modern writing. There’s no God, there’s no romance. And yet there is immense love in it for humanity. He is releasing tenderness on the audience.”

She also faces the irony of hearing her own original skepticism that Winnie is a dull homemaker thrown back at her by critics, the most vicious of whom have declared her Happy Days as tedious as listening to gossip at “the local chipper.”

To such naysayers, Shaw responds with the zeal of a convert. “This is beautifully crafted—it works surprising magic. If I thought it were only the jabberings of some housewife, I wouldn’t do it. Art is art. Chat in a queue is chat in a queue.

“Soup is not art.”

Happy Days
Directed by Deborah Warner. BAM. Through February 2.


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