Written in French in 1982, Catastrophe features a theatre director and his assistant arranging a protagonist, who stands on a black block submitting to their direction. ‘D’, the director, wears a fur coat and matching toque (a kind of hat) and smokes a fat cigar. He has only a short amount of time to devote to the rehearsal, as he must go to a caucus meeting. ‘A’, the assistant, behaves with humility and alacrity, though she carefully wipes D’s armchair before she can relax in it. She has frequent recourse to her pad and pencil. Luke, the offstage lighting man, remains invisible throughout. ‘D’ gets a ‘storm of applause’ for his creation but the brief existence of the protagonist (‘P’) ends as a skull: ‘… raises his head, fixes the audience. The applause falters, dies.’
‘Terrific. He’ll have them on their feet. I can hear it from here.’
– ‘Director’, Catastrophe
Running time: 7 minutes
The Beckett on Film project includes all 19 plays of Samuel Beckett, considered the most significant Irish playwright of the 20th century. Many of these outstanding filmed productions have received critical acclaim at prestigious international film festivals around the world including New York, Toronto and Venice.
Playwright and filmmaker David Mamet is the author of the plays Oleanna, Glengarry Glen Ross (which won the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), American Buffalo, Speed the Plow, Reunion and Cryptogram (which won the Obie Award), among others. His translations and adaptations include Red River by Pierre Laville and The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. His films include The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Untouchables, House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, Hoffa, The Edge, Wag the Dog and The Winslow Boy.
The film, theatre and television career of the late John Gielgud (‘P’) extends over many decades. His most memorable film performances include the Oscar-winning Shine, First Knight, Prospero’s Books, Arthur and The Whistleblower, among numerous others. His television credits include Gulliver’s Travels, Scarlett,Romance on the Orient Express, Oedipus and War and Remembrance, among many others. His last theatre performance was in 1987 in The Best of Friends in London’s West End. Catastrophe was his last ever performance.
Rebecca Pidgeon (‘A’) has worked extensively in theatre, film and television in Britain and in the US. In theatre she performed in the National Theatre’s productions of The Changeling, When We Were Women and Speed the Plow. In the US, David Mamet directed her in Oleanna and in Dangerous Corner. She has also worked with Mamet in several of his films including Homicide; The Spanish Prisoner; The Winslow Boy and State and Main.
One of the leading dramatists of the 20th century, Harold Pinter (‘D’) is also an accomplished actor, director, screenwriter, poet and critic. His plays include The Caretaker, The Lover, The Homecoming, Old Times, No Man’s Land and Betrayal. Screenplays include The Last Tycoon, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Comfort of Strangers, Remains of the Day and The Trial. In recent years he has become more active as a director, overseeing David Mamet’s Oleanna and several works by Simon Gray.