Comédie, Was Wo, and the Challenges of Screen Adaptation

  • Graley Herren


Nacht und Träume was the last play Beckett conceived originally and specifically for television. It was not his final TV project, however. On his eightieth birthday, April 13, 1986, SDR aired Was Wo, Beckett’s reconceived adaptation of his final stage play, What Where.1 The piece dramatizes the act of remembering as a form of self-interrogation. It also foregrounds memory as a coercible narrative; if one version of events fails to yield the desired results, then one can always recast events and apply new pressures in (vain) pursuit of the right answers. Such are the revisionist tactics pursued by Voice of Bam (V) in What Where, and Beckett takes a page out of this same playbook in revising the piece from stage to screen and back to stage again. Beckett’s previous television work engages with other intertexts, invoking the likes of Beethoven, Yeats, Schubert, Dante, and the Old Masters, only to decompose their works and recompose them for distinctly different ends. He uses the same subversive strategy in Was Wo but redirects it intratextually upon his own work.


Live Performance Film Version Creative Freedom Stage Direction Creative Adaptation 


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  1. 3.
    For a chronicle of these changes, which Schneider came to regret in retrospect as a betrayal, see Alan Schneider, “Working with Beckett,” On Beckett: Essays and Criticism, ed. S.E. Gontarski (New York: Grove Press, 1986), 251–52.Google Scholar

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© Graley Herren 2007

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  • Graley Herren

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