I met Beckett in 1981, when I sent him, with no introduction, a book I’d written, and to my astonishment, he read the book and replied almost at once. Six weeks later, his note having emboldened me to seek a meeting, our paths crossed in London, and he invited me to sit in on the rehearsals of Endgame which he was then conducting with a group of American actors for a Dublin opening in May.
It was a happy time for him. Away from his desk, where his work, he said (I’ve never heard him say otherwise), was not going well at all, he was exploring a work which, though he’d written it thirty years before, remained among his favorites. The American group, called the San Quentin Theatre Workshop because they had discovered his work—through a visiting production of Waiting for Godot—while inmates at San Quentin, was particularly close to his heart, and working in London he was accessible to the close-knit family that collects so often where he or his work appears. Among those who came to watch were Billie Whitelaw, Irene Worth, Nicole Williamson, Alan Schneider, Israel Horowitz, Siobhan O’Casey (Sean’s daughter), three writers with Beckett books in progress, two editors who’d published him and one who wanted to, and an impressive collection of madmen and Beckett freaks who had learned of his presence via the grapevine. One lady, in her early twenties, came to ask if Beckett minded that she’d named her dog after him (Beckett: “Don’t worry about me. What about the dog?”), and a wild-eyed madman from Scotland brought flowers and gifts for Beckett and everyone in the cast and a four-page letter entitled “Beckett’s Cancer, Part Three,” which begged him to accept the gifts as “a sincere token of my deep and long-suffering love for you,” while remembering that “I also hold a profound and comprehensive loathing for you, in response to all the terrible corruption and suffering which you have seen fit to inflict upon my entirely innocent personality.”