Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days is turning 60. Its image of a trapped woman is as potent as ever

Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days is turning 60. Its image of a trapped woman is as potent as ever

The Guardian

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Claire Thomas will never forget the first time she saw Happy Days. Her new novel, The Performance, revolves around it

I first saw Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne in 2009. I remember the barren stage and the entombed woman at its centre, whose utterances filled the theatre and carried the content of the play.

Happy Days – which turns 60 this year – has a stunning and simple premise: a woman, Winnie, is buried in a mound of earth. She remains trapped for the play’s duration, grappling with her predicament as a relentless sun beats down on her. Winnie is in possession of a bag full of everyday items (and a gun) that offer her some distraction. A man, Willie, occasionally crawls out from behind the mound of earth to mutter something in Winnie’s direction, but she is mostly alone.

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