Monologue presents a voice in the dark

Simon O’Connor performs a monologue of a Beckett novella in Company, to be staged this weekend as...
Simon O’Connor performs a monologue of a Beckett novella in Company, to be staged this weekend as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Photo: supplied
A man alone in the dark imagines he is not a man along in the dark. For company.

This simple premise is at the heart of Company, a monologue performance of a Samuel Beckett novella by veteran Dunedin actor Simon O’Connor.

Co-directed by Richard Huber and Stuart Young, and designed and produced by afterburner, the show will be staged this weekend at Allen Hall, as part of this weekend Dunedin Fringe Festival.

Company is a philosophical reflection on a man alone, imagining he is not alone.

Craving stillness and silence, the man is stirred by figments of his imagination and best by memories, which may or may not be his own.

The language of Company is precise and bare, while the verbal images pack a punch.

Huber said the opening of the piece echoed the opening of the novella — "a voice comes from the dark" — and reflected the experience of the audience and the performer.

"While lying in the dark, the man invents figments to talk to and to talk about — other versions of himself in various forms," he said.

O’Connor said the production design by Marty Roberts and sound design by Kerian Varaine took their cues from that — ensuring  the audience’s ears did most of the work.

"The light is kept at very low levels throughout, which helps to intensify the experience and also the text, because it is a novella that was not primarily written for staging," he said.

"The work goes back and forth between the speaker lying in the dark, and being shot through with memories, which he is not sure about."

Huber said at its heart, Company gave expression to the experiences of meditating, day dreaming, or just lying in the dark.

"This is a very common experience — when you are in the dark and your body is still, your inner self awakens.

"What is interesting is that Beckett is taking a very common experience and trying to write it," Huber said.

O’Connor said another way of looking at the work was simply Beckett at the end of his writing life working to make is work more and more minimalist.

"So the work that comes to him in the dark could be the writer’s own voice, creating fictions, trying them out, discarding them, and every now and then remembering," he said.

"It is very much a listening piece — the audience is invited to lean forward and enjoy the language, which is playful and often mischievous."

Huber said the work was also beautiful to listen to, due to the finesse of the imagery.

"Although it wasn’t written as a play, my feeling is the best way to experience it is this way — as a spoken piece."

O’Connor said the process of learning the long piece was a challenge to memory, but the repetition of learning it had really helped him to understand it. 

 - Performances of Samuel Beckett’s Company will be held this Friday at 7pm, and Saturday at 2pm and 7pm, at Allen Hall Theatre on campus.

Content warning — adult themes, mental health. Restricted to 13+ years.