Happy Days (play)

Happy Days (play)

Happy Days is a play in two acts, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. He began the play on 8 October 1960 and it was completed on 14 May 1961. Beckett finished the translation into French by November 1962 but amended the title. “In a moment of inspiration, he borrowed the title Oh les beaux jours, from Verlaine’s poem, ‘Colloque sentimental’”.

Cyril Cusack claimed that Happy Days was, by Beckett’s own admission, ‘influenced’ by his wife, Maureen Cusack’s request that he ‘write a happy play’ after Krapp.

The first production was at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York on 17 September 1961, directed by Alan Schneider with Ruth White as Winnie (for which she won an Obie) and John C. Becher as Willie. The first London production was at the Royal Court Theatre on 1 November 1962 directed by George Devine and Tony Richardson with Brenda Bruce as Winnie and Peter Duguid as Willie.

When Happy Days was first performed in London there were disagreements about every aspect of the text and production. Even Kenneth Tynan, one of the saviours of Godot, felt that Happy Days was "a metaphor extended beyond its capacity",; nevertheless, he admitted Beckett's strange, insinuating power and urged his readers to buy tickets for the play. The Times critic couldn’t understand why Brenda Bruce played the part with a Scottish accent.

It was first published by Grove Press in 1961 followed by Faber in 1962. By this stage in his writing career Beckett was becoming more aware of the importance of revising his work in actual performance and so wrote to Grove Press about Happy Days on 18 May 1961 to advise them that, "I should prefer the text not to appear in any form before production and not in book form until I have seen some rehearsals in London. I can't be definitive without actual work done in the theatre."

The film version of Happy Days was produced in 2001 as part of the Beckett on Film project. The film was directed by Patricia Rozema and starred Rosaleen Linehan as Winnie.

One of the most recent revivals on stage was performed in 2008 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City directed by Deborah Warner and starred Fiona Shaw as Winnie and Tim Potter as Willie.

Read more about Happy Days (play):  Background, Synopsis

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