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Play (play)

Play is a play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in 1962 to 1963 and first produced in German as Spiel on June 14, 1963 at the Ulmer Theatre in Ulm-Donau in Germany. The first performance in English was in 1964 at the Old Vic in London.

The curtain rises to three people, two women and a man, in a row along the front of the stage with their heads sticking out of the tops of large urns, the rest of their bodies unexposed. They remain like this for the play's duration. There are a few short moments when all three speak at once, but in the main the play is made up of short, sometimes broken sentences spoken by one character at a time. Over the course of the play, it becomes apparent that the man has betrayed one of the women by having an affair with the other.

A spotlight is shone on whoever is speaking, leaving the other two characters in darkness. Beckett writes that this spotlight "provokes" the character's speech, and that a single, swivelling light should be used, rather than three lights switching on and off.

Near the end of the script, there is the terse instruction: "Repeat play." Beckett elaborates on this in notes, by saying that the repeat might be varied, by changing the intensity of the light, giving a breathless quality to the lines, or even shuffling some of the lines around. At the end of this second repeat, the play appears to start again for a third time, but does not get more than a few seconds into it before it suddenly stops.

Play is a relatively short play, with a typical performance lasting around twenty-five minutes.