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Act Without Words I

Act Without Words I is a short play by Samuel Beckett.

Like many of Beckett's works, the play was originally written in French being translated into English by Beckett himself. It was written in 1956 and first performed on April 3 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. On that occasion it followed a performance of Beckett's Endgame. The original music to accompany the performance was written by John Beckett, Samuel's cousin.

As the title suggests, the play is a mime. The action takes place in a desert. The cast consists of just one man, who is thrown onto stage at the start of the play and is thrown back on each time he tries to make an exit. The main action has him trying to reach a small carafe of water, which is always just out of reach, suspended from the flies of the theatre. Cubes are lowered onto the stage, which he climbs upon to reach the water, but the carafe ascends so it remains slightly out of reach. Later, a knotted rope descends, which the man tries to climb up, but it is let out, and he ends up back on the ground. Eventually he seems to give up, and sits on one of the cubes. After a while, this is pulled up from beneath him, and he is left on the ground at the end of the play.

Just as Beckett's Act Without Words II has been compared to the myth of Sisyphus, the man in Act Without Words I is often compared to Tantalus, who stood in a pool of water which receded every time he bent to drink it.

A filmed version of Act Without Words I was directed by Karel Reisz for the Beckett on Film project.

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