All That Fall


All That Fall

"All That Fall" is a one-act radio play by Samuel Beckett produced following a request [It has been reported that Beckett wrote this play following a "commission" from the BBC. This is not correct. Hugh Kenner advises that Beckett had written only some of his works at the suggestion of others and that these did not figure among his very best. Kenner remarks, “But suggestions – not commissions, since he will not regard an arrangement as binding until he has in fact been able to execute the work – suggestions, then, have led him into adventures with several media he would likely not otherwise have explored.” – Kenner, H., "A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett", (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1973), p 159] from the BBC. It was written in English and completed in September 1956. The autograph copy is titled "Lovely Day for the Races". It was translated, by Robert Pinget, as "Tous ceux qui tombent".

When the germ of "All that Fall" came to him, Beckett wrote to a friend, Nancy Cunard:

: “Never thought about radio play technique but in the dead of t’other night got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging of feet and puffing and panting which may or may not lead to something.” [Letter to Nancy Cunard, 5th June 1956. Quoted in Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 428]

Although written quickly and with few redrafts, the subject matter was deeply personal causing him to sink into what he called “a whirl of depression” [Samuel Beckett to Barney Rosset, 23rd August 1956. Quoted in Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 430] when he wrote to his US publisher Barney Rosset in August. In fact in September “he cancelled all his appointments in Paris for a week simply because he felt wholly incapable of facing people” [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 430,431] and worked on the script until its completion.

It was first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, 13th January 1957 featuring Mary O'Farrell as Maddy Rooney with J. G. Devlin as her husband, Dan. Soon-to-be Beckett regulars, Patrick Magee and Jack MacGowran also had small parts. The producer was Donald McWhinnie.

ynopsis

The trip there

This is the first work by Beckett where a woman is the central character. In this case it is a gritty, “overwhelmingly [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/capacious capacious] ”, [Worth, K., ‘Women in Beckett’s Radio and Television Plays’ in Ben-Zvi, L., (Ed.) "Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives" (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), p 236] outspoken, Irish [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/septuagenarian septuagenarian] , Maddy Rooney, plagued by “rheumatism and childlessness”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 24] “Beckett emphasized to Billie Whitelaw that Maddy had an Irish accent:

: ‘I said, “Like yours,” and he said, “No, no, no, an Irish accent.” I realized he didn't know he had an Irish accent, and that was the music he heard in his head.’” [Gussow, M., ‘An Immediate Bonding With Beckett: An Actress's Memoirs’ in "The New York Times", 24th April 1996]

The opening scene finds Maddy trudging down a country road towards the station, renamed “Boghill” [“Beckett probably named the station Boghill because of the proximity to a bogfield known locally as ‘the bog’ lying between the chemist’s shop and Hainault Street.” - O’Brien, E., "The Beckett Country" (Dublin: The Black Cat Press, 1986), p 350 n 48] in the play. It’s her husband’s birthday. She’s already given him a tie but decides to surprise him by meeting him off the 12:30 train. It is a fine June morning, a Saturday since her husband is leaving his office at noon rather than five. In the distance the sounds of rural animals are heard.

She moves with difficulty. She hears chamber music coming from an old house, Schubert’sDeath and the Maiden”. [The text only mentions "Death and the Maiden". This is the title of a lied by Schubert, (See "Death and the Maiden (song)") the melody of which forms the basis for the second movement of his "String Quartet No.14", D810. In the first BBC recording it is the string quartet which is heard "not" the original lied.] She stops, listens to the recording and even murmurs along with it before proceeding.

Her first of three encounters with men is with the dung carrier, Christy, who tries to sell her a “small load of … stydung”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 12] She tells him she will consult her husband. The man’s cart is being pulled by a “ [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clegg cleg] -tormented” [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hinny hinny] who shows some reluctance to move on and needs to be whipped. As she heads off Maddy’s thoughts return to “Minnie! Little Minnie!” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 13]

The smell of laburnum [The laburnum tree ("Laburnum anagyroides") is a tree which, in myth and legend, is associated with Aphrodite: and was an important symbol of the powerful Love Goddess and of love and security for the poet Sylvia Plath. She associated it with her beloved father, calling it "my father's bean tree" ("Maenad", "Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems", p 133 [http://www.angelfire.com/tn/plath/maenad.html] ); and, in "The Beekeeper's Daughter" ("Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems", p 118 [http://blue.carisenda.com/archives/sylvia_plath/the_beekeepers_daughter.html] ), she captured the sensuous, sensual beauty of this "Golden Rain Tree" which, as a bringer of life and death, exhibits (she wrote admiringly) "a queenship no mother can contest". This also clarifies Maddy comment on the way home about “golden drizzle” (Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 36).] distracts her. Suddenly old Mr Tyler is upon her ringing his cycle bell. Whilst relating how his daughter’s operation has rendered her unable to bear children, they are almost knocked down by Connolly’s van, which covers them “white with dust from head to foot”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 13] Maddy again bemoans the loss of Minnie but refuses to be comforted by Tyler who rides off despite realising that his rear tyre is flat.

Lastly an “old admirer”, [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 17] Mr Slocum, a racecourse clerk, pulls up in his “limousine” [A limousine is also a type of carriage corresponding with the railway carriage her husband is in.] to offer her a ride. She is too fat and awkward to climb in alone so Slocum pushes her in from behind and in doing so her frock gets caught in the door. He tries to start the car but it has died. After applying the choke he does manage to get going and, no sooner having done so, runs over and kills a hen, which Maddy feels the need to eulogise.

At each stage of the journey the technology she encounters advances, but despite this each means of locomotion is beset by problems, foreshadowing the problem with the train: she finds walking difficult and is forced to sit down, Christy needs to whip his hinny to make her go, Tyler’s tire goes flat, and Slocum’s engine dies. All the relatives mentioned in this section are female and all the modes of transport are also referred to as females.

The station

At the station Slocum calls on the porter, Tommy, for assistance to extricate his passenger, after which he drives away, “crucifying his gearbox.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 20] Beckett told Billie Whitelaw that Maddy “is in a state of abortive explosiveness”. [Oppenheim, L., (Ed.) "Directing Beckett", (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p 196. In her interview with Linda Ben-Zvi, Whitelaw says Beckett used the expression “explosive constipation” which she explained she took to mean, “She’s terribly constipated; she has all these feelings, and wants to explode, to release them, but she can’t. She just tries to hang on in there.” – Ben-Zvi, L., (Ed.) "Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives" (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), p 7] This becomes apparent when she considers herself ignored. To the boy Tommy she says abrasively: “Don’t mind me. Don’t take any notice of me. I do not exist. The fact is well known.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 19] As Ruby Cohn quips, “she endures volubly.” [Cohn, R., ‘The Femme Fatale on Beckett’s Stage’ in Ben-Zvi, L., (Ed.) "Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives" (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 1990 p 165]

The stationmaster, Mr Barrell, asks after Mrs Rooney’s health. She confesses that she should really still be in bed. We hear of the demise of Mr Barrell’s father, who passed away shortly after retiring, a tale that reminds Maddy again of her own woes. She notes that the weather has taken a change the worse; the wind is picking up and rain is due.

Miss Fitt approaches so immersed in humming a hymn she doesn’t see Maddy at first. Miss Fitt, as her name indicates, is a self-righteous misfit. After some discussion she condescends to help the old woman up the stairs to the platform, primarily because “it is the Protestant thing to do.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 23]

Unusually the train is late. The noise of the station builds to a crescendo but it is an anticlimax; it is the oft-mentioned up mail. Dan’s train comes in moments afterwards. Maddy panics. She can’t find her husband because he has been led to the gents by Jerry, [The two boys in the railway station call to mind Tom and Jerry.] the boy who normally helps him to the taxi. It’s only at this point in the drama we learn that her husband is blind. Tightfisted Dan chides her for not cancelling Jerry but still pays his penny fee. He refuses however to discuss the reason for the train’s lateness. Not without some difficulty – her husband is also not a well man – they descend the stairs and begin the trek home.

On her journey to the station Maddy only had to compete with one person at a time, each an old man. Now she is faced with a crowd. Rather than the flat open countryside she has to contend with a mountainous climb; she refers to the stairs as a “cliff”, her husband calls them a “precipice” and Miss Fitt compares them to the “Matterhorn”, a mountain that for years inspired fear in climbers. Also, the means of transport that are mentioned here, the Titanic, the Lusitania and the train due are modes of mass transport and the level of danger shifts from the inconvenient to the potentially lethal. All the relatives mentioned in this section are now male.

The walk home

The weather is worsening. The thought of getting home spurs them on. Dan imagines sitting by the fire in his dressing gown with his wife reading aloud from "Effi Briest". [Beckett read this with Peggy Sinclair, his first love, who died of tuberculosis in 1933. The novel also makes a key appearance in "Krapp’s Last Tape".] The Lynch twins jeer at them from a distance. Dan shakes his stick and chases them off. Previously they have pelted the old couple with mud. “Did you ever wish to kill a child?” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 31] Dan asks her then admits to having to resist the impulse within himself. This makes his comment shortly after about being alone in his compartment – “I made no attempt to restrain myself.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 32] – all the more suspicious. This also focuses attention on his remarks about the pros and cons of retirement: one of the negatives he brings up has to do with enduring their neighbour’s children.

Dan is as [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/laconic laconic] as Maddy is [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/loquacious loquacious] . His refusal to explain why the train was delayed forces her to pester him with questions which he does his best to avoid answering. He prevaricates and digresses, anything to throw her off track (pun intended). Eventually he maintains that he honestly has no clue what the cause was. Being blind and on his own he had simply assumed the train had stopped at a station.

Something Dan says reminds Maddy of a visit she once made to hear “a lecture by one of these new mind doctors. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 35] What she heard there was the story of a patient the doctor had failed to cure, a young girl who was dying, and “did in fact die, shortly after he had washed his hands of her.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 36] The reason the doctor gave for the girl’s death, as if the revelation had just come to him there and then, was: “The trouble with her was that she had never really been born!” [ “The anecdote is directly attributable to Jung’s Third Tavistock Lecture (1935). During the discussion period Jung commented on the case of a little girl who had, he said, ‘the most amazing mythological dreams.... The little girl died a year later of an infectious disease. She had never been born entirely.’ – Jung, C. G., Lecture III, "Symbolic Life", p 96]

As they near the house Maddy passed earlier, Schubert’s music is still playing. Dan starts to cry. To stop her asking questions he asks about the text of Sunday’s sermon. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down,” [Psalms 145:14 (King James Version). Quoted in Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 38] she tells him, and then they both burst out laughing. Mr Slocum and Miss Fitt had both passed comment on Maddy’s bent posture. Perhaps, this is partly why they laugh: it is the best reaction to a life of unending misery in a world devoid of any God. In "Happy Days", Winnie asks “How can one better magnify the Almighty than by sniggering with him at his little jokes, particularly the poorer ones”. [Samuel, S., "The Complete Dramatic Works" (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), p 159] It is worthy of mention too that “it is Mr Tyler, rather than the Lord, who saved the preacher’s life when they were climbing together”. [Pountney, R., "Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett’s Drama" 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 104] It would be fair to assume that Maddy doesn’t really believe in a god anymore. When she says, “We are alone. There is no one to ask.” She is certainly not talking about there being no one to ask about her husband’s age. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 32]

Jerry catches them up to return something Mr Rooney has dropped. Learning that it is some kind of ball he demands the boy hand it to him. When pressed by his wife all he will say is that: “It is a thing I carry about with me,” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 38] and becomes angry when pressed on the subject. They have no small change so promise to give Jerry a penny on Monday to compensate him for his trouble.

Just as the boy starts back Maddy calls him to see if he has learned what delayed the train. He has. Dan doesn’t want to know – “Leave the boy alone, he knows nothing! Come on!” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 39] – but his wife insists. Jerry tells her that it was a child at which point her husband groans. When pushed for details the boy goes on: “It was a little child fell out of the carriage, Ma’am … Onto the line, Ma’am … Under the wheels, Ma’am.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 39] We assume the child is a girl – all the foreshadowing in the play has been pointing to that – but, crucially, Beckett never actually says. (See his comment to Kay Boyle below however).

With that Jerry exits. We hear his steps die away and the couple head off in silence. Maddy must realise the death happened while she was making her way to the station but she is – for once – speechless. All we are left with is the wind and the rain and to wonder what, if anything, Mr Rooney actually had to do with the death of the child.

The third section of the play returns Maddy to the relative calm of the walk home. They encounter a further three people only this time they are all children. The laburnum also serves as an important . In the opening scene Maddy admires it, now its condition has deteriorated. The weather has also continued to worsen until, at the end, they are in the middle of a “" [t] empest of wind and rain"”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 39] The actor David Warrilow relates: “When I saw Beckett in January, one of the first things he said was: ‘What do you think of "All That Fall"?’... [Later I asked him the same question.] And he looked down and said, ‘Well, a number of weaknesses’. [I asked:] ‘Do you mean the production?’ He said, ‘No, no, no. The writing.’... ‘What I really was waiting for was the rain at the end.’” [David Warrilow, in Kalb, J., "Beckett in Performance" (London: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p 233]

In 1961 Kay Boyle asked Beckett if, at the end of "Happy Days", Willie is reaching for the gun, or for his wife. Beckett replied:

: “The question as to which Willie is ‘after’ – Winnie or the revolver – is like the question in "All That Fall" as to whether Mr Rooney threw the little girl [In an earlier draft, Beckett has Rooney say: “I should like to kill a child before I die. A little girl.” – Holograph held at the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas, Austin. Quoted in Pountney, R., "Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett’s Drama" 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 105] out of the railway-carriage or not. And the answer is the same in both cases – we don’t know, at least I don’t … I know creatures are supposed to have no secrets for their authors, but I’m afraid mine for me have little else.” [Samuel Beckett to Kay Boyle, 7th October 1961. Quoted in Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 485]

Biographical details

When writing in French, Beckett stripped his text of biographical detail in an attempt to universalise his characters. With his return to English he also returns to the Dublin suburb of Foxrock for his first radio play. Apart from many uses of common Irish words and phrases, Beckett pulls names, characters and locations from his childhood to deliver a realistic setting for the drama, which is still presented in a manner almost everyone can relate to.

# Beckett’s mother shopped at Connolly’s Stores and her purchases delivered by van as was customary at the time. [O’Brien, E., "The Beckett Country" (Dublin: The Black Cat Press, 1986), p 22]
# Maddy’s journey is from “Brighton Road to Foxrock station” and back again. [Samuel Beckett to Aiden Higgins, 6th July 1956. Quoted in Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 428]
# James Knowlson claims that Maddy was actually inspired by Beckett’s kindergarten teacher Ida “Jack” Elsner. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 429] In her later years, when she had trouble riding her bicycle, she was known to fall off and be found “sprawling by the roadside until such a time as a passer-by [might come] along to help her up” [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 26] in a state similar to Maddy after leaving Christy.
# “The Becketts employed a gardener called Christy.” [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 428]
# Beckett bought apples from a market-gardener named Watt Tyler on his walk home from school. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 428] The Tylers and Becketts also shared a pew at Tullow Church, the church referred to in the text. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 24]
# Slocum was the surname of his cousin John Beckett’s future wife, Vera. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 429]
# Mr Tully was a local dairyman. [Cronin, A., "Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist" (London: Flamingo, 1997), p 25]
# Dunne, Maddy’s maiden name, was the local butcher on Bray Road. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 429. Ruby Cohn has pointed out that the name Maddy Dunne Rooney may also be a series of puns that trace the theme of decay in the work meaning “mad,” “done,” and “ruin.” – Cohn, R., "Back to Beckett" (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), p 161]
# Miss Fitt’s name, aside from being a wonderful pun, may have been inspired by a classmate of Beckett’s at Portora School named E.G. Fitt or a Rathgar lady resident. [Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 428,429]
# The racecourse is Leopardstown Racecourse. [O’Brien, E., "The Beckett Country" (Dublin: The Black Cat Press, 1986), p 31]
# Mr Barrell’s name is a nod to Thomas Farrell, “the [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/persnickety persnickety] railroad stationmaster in the Foxrock of his youth” [Cullen, K., ‘Much Ado about Beckett’ in "The Boston Globe", March 12, 2006] who often took first prize for the “best-kept” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 26] station on the line.
# When Maddy mentions that the preacher for Sunday is to be Hardy, Dan wonders if this is the author of “"How to be Happy though Married?"” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 38] “There was in Foxrock, in Kerrymount Avenue, a Rev E. Hardy, not to be confused with Edward John Hardy, the author” [Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) "The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett", (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p 246] of the aforementioned book.Of course, “ [t] he events in Beckett's life leave their traces in the shape of his work, without necessarily leaving an inventory in its content.” [McDonald, R., "The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett" (Cambridge University Press, 2007), p 6]

Interpretation

Q: "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
A: "To get to the other side."

MRS ROONEY: It is suicide to be abroad.

“"All That Fall" manages to develop a highly dynamic genre in radio drama through a multi-layered script, which can be read as tragicomedy , a murder mystery, [Is Maddy’s reference to Tyler “stealing up behind [her] like a deerstalker” a nod to Sherlock Holmes’s famous hat?] a cryptic literary riddle or a quasi-musical score.” [Branigan, K., ‘"All That Fall": How Samuel Beckett Enhanced Radio Drama Through Musical Structure’ in " [http://www.nuim.ie/publications/research/research_record_2003.pdf National University of Ireland, Maynouth, Postgraduate Research Record, 2003] ", p 26]

It’s said that, death is no joking matter. The thing is, with Beckett it is and this play is crammed full of references to it. The play’s setting is realistic enough and the characters too, if a little grotesque, but hardly anyone’s life has not rubbed shoulders with Death, from the unfortunate hen mowed down by Slocum’s car to the poor child thrown from the train. It is the dominant theme but far from the only one.

Death

# Schubert’s "Death and the Maiden" is heard at the start and near the end of the drama, setting the theme from the outset.
# All parts of the laburnum are poisonous; “children should be warned never to touch the black seeds contained within the pods as they contain an alkaloid poison.” ["Can our Laburnum tree poison our son?" [http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/ate/childrenshealth/202775.html netdoctor.co.uk] , 24th April 2006]
# Maddy’s daughter, Minnie, appears to have died as a child. Vivian Mercier goes so far as to suppose that the child may only ever have existed in Maddy’s imagination [Mercier, V., "Beckett/Beckett" (London: Souvenir Press, 1990)', p 205] a view supported by Rosemary Pountney. [Pountney, R., "Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett’s Drama" 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 106]
# Maddy tells Tyler: “It is suicide to be abroad.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 15] The pun is often commented on (i.e. a broad). The alternative would be to remain fœtus-like in the womb of the home. “The topography in "All That Fall" is distinctly hostile to the females – human or animal – who try to walk through it. Maddy’s comment ‘It is suicide to be a broad’ suggests that her death will be her own fault, namely the fault of being born a woman.” [Bryant-Bertail, S., ‘ [http://www.tau.ac.il/arts/publications/ASSAPHTH11/BERTAIL.html The True-Real Woman: Maddy Rooney as Picara in All That Fall] ’ in Assaph C., (Ed.) "Studies in the Theatre", No 11]
# When she arrives at the station Maddy describes herself in such a way as to conjure up the image of a corpse being shrouded for burial.
# She recalls the lecture where the doctor spoke about a young girl who died.
# Slocum’s car dies and is started again only with difficulty.
# No sooner having done so it runs over a chicken crossing the road, killing it.
# Barrell’s father died a short time after his son took over as stationmaster.
# When the train arrives – but before she meets her husband Maddy – remarks that Mr Barrell looks as if he has seen a ghost.
# Her husband comments that she is “struggling with a dead language”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 34]
# Jerry returns “a kind of ball” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 38] to Mr Rooney. Although not an obvious symbol of death, this ball is a significant motif of childhood grief for Beckett. [When Krapp’s mother died, he was throwing a ball for a little white dog, and will feel it forever: “But I gave it away to the dog.” (Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 60) In "All Strange Away" a “small grey punctured rubber ball” (Beckett, S., ‘All Strange Away’ in "Beckett Short No 3" (London: Calder Publication [1976] 1999), p 33) is the last object to be contemplated before Fancy dies.]
# Miss Fitt believes she not really of this world and left to herself “would soon be flown … home.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 23] “I suppose the truth is, “she tells Mrs Rooney, “I am not there … just not really there at all.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp 22,23] (See "Footfalls").
# As she assists Maddy up the stairs she begins to hum the hymn, " [http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lead_kindly.html Lead, Kindly Light] ", which is one of the tunes reportedly played as the "Titanic" was sinking.
# The sinking of the Lusitania is mentioned; 1,198 people died with her, including almost a hundred children.
# Tyler thinks that Miss Fitt has lost her mother (as in death) but it turns out that she simply cannot find her because the train is late; thus, since the mother is bringing fresh sole (soul), there is still hope that the mother is not lost.
# A female voice warns young Dolly not to stand close because “one can be sucked under.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 25]
# On their way home Dan asks his wife if she’s ever contemplated killing a child.
# He refers to his time at work as being “buried alive … not even certified death can ever take the place of that”. [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 34] Dan’s workplace is at the terminus, the end of the line (pun intended), and, with its “‘rest-couch and velvet hangings’, the office seems womblike, but a “wombtomb”, [Beckett. S., "Dream of Fair to Middling Women" (Dublin: The Black Cat Press, 1992), p. 45] a womb after life rather than before.” [Lawley, P., ‘The Difficult Birth: An Image of Utterance in Beckett’ in Davis, R. J. and Butler, L. St J., (Eds.) "‘Make Sense Who May’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works" (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 7]
# Dan thinks he can smell a dead dog in a ditch but is told its only rotting leaves despite the fact that it’s only Summer.
# He also alludes to Matthew 10:29 about the death of sparrows. [Matthew 10:29 (King James Version) – “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (In some translations the coin is a penny).]
# The play ends, of course, with the revelation that the train was late due to the death of a young child under its wheels.
# At one point Maddy – who thinks she is still talking to the stationmaster – says: “Then at evening the clouds will part, the setting sun will shine an instant, then sink, behind the hills.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 21] This phrase evokes the famous description of the birth astride a grave from "Waiting for Godot" reminding us that the best of life only lasts an instant before darkness consumes it once more. Beckett emphasis this in "All That Fall" by making all the characters either young or old, focusing on the beginnings and end of life; the rest is of little consequence.
# Another Beckettian leitmotif is underlined by a seemingly innocuous remark made by Maddy when other characters take control of the conversation for a moment: “Do not imagine, because I am silent, that I am not present.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 25] In radio a character only ‘exists’ for as long as we can hear him or her. This reminds us of the many Beckett characters that feel compelled to keep taking to prove they exist.

ickness

# Maddy is obese, suffers from rheumatism, “heart and kidney trouble” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 27] and has been bed-ridden for some time. On the return journey she twice mentions feeling cold, weak, and faint.
# When Maddy asks about his “poor” [Maddy uses the same adjective, ‘poor’, with the succession of daughter, wife, and mother when speaking with each of the men she meets on the road to the station.] wife Christy replies that she is “no better.” Nor is his daughter.
# Tyler’s only optimistic comments are made about the weather. He says, “Ah in spite of all it is a blessed thing to be alive in such weather, and out of hospital.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp 15,16] This could be taken to mean he has just come out of hospital – he refers to himself being “half alive” – though it could equally refer to his daughter’s recent surgery.
# Slocum’s mother is “fairly comfortable” and he’s managing to keep her out of pain.
# Dan is blind, suffers from an old wound and has a heart condition.
# Mrs Tully’s “husband is in constant pain and beats her unmercifully.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 33]

ex

# Tyler and Maddy flirt. Tyler, who had pumped his tire firm before departing, now finds his rear tire flat. He cycles off riding on the rim. As he leaves, Maddy complains about her corset and shouts after him an indecent invitation to unlace her behind a hedge.
# Mr Slocum (slow come) squeezes Maddy into his car: “I’m coming, Mrs Rooney, I’m coming, give me time, I’m as stuff as yourself.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 18] She makes sexual innuendos that she is in a compromising position. She giggles and shouts in delight when she finally gets in the car and Slocum is left panting in exhaustion. The sexual connotation is continued when her dress is ripped in the door. As if actually guilty of adultery, Maddy wonders what her husband will say when he discovers the tear in her dress.
# Tyler points out that the 12:30 train has not yet arrived and that one can tell by the signal at the “bawdy hour of nine.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 26] This is another reference to sex in the play and a humorous one as the stationmaster stifles a guffaw.
# Maddy tries to get Dan to kiss her at the station but he refuses. Later she asks him to put his arm around her. She says that it will be like old times. He rebuffs her again; he wants to get home quickly so that she can read to him. He says of the book, “I think Effie is going to commit adultery with the Major.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 29] This indicates Dan is more interested in the romance of novels than with his wife. Is it possible that Maddy, still flirtatious in her seventies, was unfaithful earlier in their marriage?

Birth

If Maddy’s entry into the car has sexual connotations, her exit certainly reminds one of childbirth: “Crouch down, Mrs Rooney, crouch down, and get your head in the open … Press her down, sir … Now! She’s coming!” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp 19,20]

This is not the only ‘birth’ in the play. When describing his journey home, particularly the portion during the delay, Dan says it was like “being confined” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 29] an expression used to describe the concluding state of pregnancy; from the onset of labour to the birth. “If an underlying birth-scenario seems far-fetched, we might consider Maddy’s cries at the climax of the station scene: ‘The up mail! The up mail! (a pun evident earlier in the play) – together with Tommy’s cry: ‘She’s coming!’ – and, on the arrival of the down train, the direction (thoroughly in the spirit of the one in "Happy Days", which describes Willie as ‘"dressed to kill"’ [Beckett, S., ‘Happy Days’ in "Grove Centenary Edition", Vol III (New York: Grove Press, 2006), p 305] ), ‘clashing of couplings’. When Dan finally emerges from ‘the men’s’ Maddy tells him that it is his birthday.” [Lawley, P., ‘The Difficult Birth: An Image of Utterance in Beckett’ in Davis, R. J. and Butler, L. St J., (Eds.) "‘Make Sense Who May’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works" (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 8] Immediately after this Maddy begins her recollection of the girl who was not properly born.

“If [Dan] has a role, it is perhaps that of the gravedigger/obstetrician of the "Godot" image ‘ [putting] on the forceps’ … Between Death and the Maiden he seems to be the mediator.” [Lawley, P., ‘The Difficult Birth: An Image of Utterance in Beckett’ in Davis, R. J. and Butler, L. St J., (Eds.) "‘Make Sense Who May’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works" (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), p 10] Dan gives birth to death.

Children

In this play the old keep on living – Dan, for example, has no idea what age he is and, if he turned out to be a hundred it wouldn’t surprise him – but the young die. If a divine being is behind this then his logic is in question. According to Richard Coe's interpretation of "All That Fall", God kills "… without a reason." [Coe, R., ‘God and Samuel Beckett’ in "Meanjin Quarterly" 24.1 1965, p 71]

Girls

# Christy’s hinny is sterile.
# Maddy has no children and has passed the age when she could conceive.
# When Maddy thinks about where Minnie would be now she pictures her approaching the menopause.
# Tyler’s daughter has needed a hysterectomy so his line will die with her.
# Dolly does not die but she is in mortal danger.
# Miss Fitt fears the loss of her mother.

Boys

# Tommy is an orphan
# Jerry’s father has recently been taken away leaving him alone.
# The gender of the Lynch twins is not specified but their actions, as well as their placement in the text, points to the likelihood that they are males probably based on the twins, Art and Con, that appear in "Watt". [Beckett. S., "Watt" (London: John Calder, [1963] 1998), p 99] “The hostility of these children …reinforces the basic image of childlessness both in its presentation of children as alien to the Rooneys and in the way it provokes” [Lyons, C. R., "Samuel Beckett", MacMillan Modern Dramatists (London: MacMillan Education, 1983), p 87] Dan’s question about thinking about killing a child.

Dante

Beckett retained lifelong affection for Dante evident by the fact that his student copy of " [http://www.divinecomedy.org/divine_comedy.html The Divine Comedy] " would be beside his deathbed in December of 1989. References are found throughout all his work but it shouldn’t necessarily be assumed that what he is describing here is an aspect of Hell.
# Tyler’s remark, “I was merely cursing, under my breath, God and man, under my breath, and the wet Saturday afternoon of my conception.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 15] is reminiscent of the line from Canto III of the "Inferno" when Dante describes the cries of the condemned souls with which Charon loads his ferry to cross the Acheron. Dante writes, “They cursed God, their parents, the human race, the place, the time, the seed of their begetting and of their birth.” [http://home.earthlink.net/~zimls/HELLIII.html#55]
# The steep steps to the station recall Mount Purgatory in Dante’s "Purgatory".
# Rooney suggests to his wife that they continue their journey walking backwards. He says, “Yes. Or you forwards and I backwards. The perfect pair. Like Dante’s damned, with their faces arsy-versy. Our tears will water our bottoms.” [Beckett, S., ‘‘Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), p 31] Dan is referring to Dante’s great lovers, Paolo and Francesca, doomed to hell for adultery and constantly locked in each other’s embrace. ("Inferno" Canto V) [http://home.earthlink.net/~zimls/HELLV.html#top]

Music

The music at the beginning of the play not only provides its theme, it also provides its shape.
* “The exposition, Maddy’s slow outward journey, is the ‘feminine’ (i.e., dominance of a female voice and female themes).
* “The development, the wait at the railway station, becomes more ‘masculine’ (Maddy’s voice risks being crowded out by male characters who talk among themselves and are often oblivious to Maddy’s presence). It is scherzo-like in pace, due to the hustle and bustle on the platform.
* “The final movement or recapitulation is the couple’s return journey, which slows again and sees the submission of the feminine voice to the more brutish male tones of Dan Rooney. “This suggested structure of the plot owes more to basic sonata form than to theme and variation. This is the form of the first movement of the "Quartet in D minor".” [Branigan, K., ‘"All That Fall": How Samuel Beckett Enhanced Radio Drama Through Musical Structure’ in " [http://www.nuim.ie/publications/research/research_record_2003.pdf National University of Ireland, Maynouth, Postgraduate Research Record, 2003] ", p 21] Rosemary Pountey goes so far as to tabulate the themes for both journeys showing the circular structure, even though “the play ends in a linear fashion”: [Pountney, R., "Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett’s Drama" 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988), pp 54,55]

A remark made by Professor Harry White about Beckett’s later dramatic work gives an idea of the demands made upon the listener in this and his subsequent radio work:

: “Like listening to difficult music for the first time.” [White, H., ‘Something is Taking its Course: Dramatic Exactitude and the Paradigm of Serialism in Samuel Beckett’ in Bryden, M., (Ed.) "Samuel Beckett and Music" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p 171]

By comparing Beckett’s work to that of serial composers such as Schoenberg and Webern, White highlights the difficulties for listeners who are obliged to actively engage with challenging new form and content. Any meaning or deep structure will only become clear with repeated listening.

ound Effects

Since the journey of the main character is presented psychologically, Beckett asked for natural sounds to be adapted in unnatural ways. “New methods,” Martin Esslin writes, “had to be found to extract the various sounds needed (both animal and mechanical – footsteps, cars, bicycle wheels, the train, the cart) from the simple naturalism of the hundreds of records in the BBC’s effects library. Desmond Briscoe [sound technician] (and his gramophone operator, Norman Baines) had to invent ways and means to remove these sounds from the purely realistic sphere. They did so by treating them electronically: slowing down, speeding up, adding echo, fragmenting them by cutting them into segments, and putting them together in new way.” [Esslin, M., "Mediations. Essays on Brecht, Beckett, and the Media" (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980), p 122] Actors produced the sounds of all the animals but “Beckett was actually unimpressed by the use of human voices for the rural sounds when he listened into the … broadcast.” [Branigan, K., ‘"All That Fall": How Samuel Beckett Enhanced Radio Drama Through Musical Structure’ in " [http://www.nuim.ie/publications/research/research_record_2003.pdf National University of Ireland, Maynouth, Postgraduate Research Record, 2003] ", p 19]

"These experiments, and the discoveries made as they evolved, led directly to the establishment of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Beckett and "All That Fall" thus directly contributed to one of the most important technical advances in the art of radio (and the technique, and indeed technology, of radio in Britain)." [Esslin, M., Quoted in Desmond Briscoe’s obituary in "The Independent", 26th February 2007]

taged productions

Beckett conceived "All That Fall" as a radio play. To Beckett’s mind it was unthinkable to transfer it to another medium and yet it was done, and in his lifetime.

Beckett admonished Barney Rossett, on 27th August 1957, saying of "All That Fall": "It is no more theatre than "Endgame" is radio and to 'act' it is to kill it. Even the reduced visual dimension it will receive from the simplest and most static of readings ... will be destructive of whatever quality it may have and which depends on the whole thing's "coming out of the dark". [Oppenheim, L., Ed, "Directing Beckett" (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p 191] And yet despite this fact “Beckett authorised a French TV version adapted by Robert Pinget, shown on RTF on 25th January 1963. A German stage production was given at the Schiller-Theatre, Berlin in January 1966; Beckett was not happy with either.” [Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) "The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett", (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p 11]

“When … Ingmar Bergman, asked if he could stage both radio plays, "All That Fall" and "Embers", the answer was a firm ‘No’,” [ Knowlson, J., ‘‘Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett’’ (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 505] The same went, in 1969, when Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife visited him to persuade him to allow them to produce a version at the National Theatre. “They had refused to accept his written refusals and made the trip … anyway. There he greeted them with politeness and offered limited hospitality, but remained steadfast in his decision.” [Bair, D., "Samuel Beckett: A Biography" (London: Vintage, 1990), p 638]

“ [S] ince his death [Beckett’s] Estate has assiduously followed his wishes. Permission is granted only for faithful radio productions or for staged readings in which producers agree to limit the action to actors speaking the lines and walking to and from chairs. The director John Sowle, in his [1997] staging of "All That Fall" … cleverly identified a loophole in the rules: since the play requires many elaborate and self-consciously artificial sound-effects, the production of those effects can become a spectacle in its own right. On stage at the Cherry Lane are a wind machine, gravel-trays, bells, coconuts, a stationary bike and much more. Furthermore, the actors, who read in front of old-fashioned mikes, dressed in 1950s clothes, never acknowledge the audience, even at the curtain call. The conceit is that they're performing a live sound-stage broadcast of the play on which we're eavesdropping.” [Kalb, J., [http://hotreview.org/ HotReview.org] quoted on the Kaliyuga website. [http://www.kaliyuga.com/ATFNYPg.htm] ]

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) have been granted permission to stage 'All That Fall' in the Summer of 2008. This will be the European Premiére.

References

External links

* [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=1399676 Text of the play – Questia (subscription required)]
*Extract from the original BBC broadcast ("Windows Media") - mms://audio.bl.uk/media/beckett.wma


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