In (2006)

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Samuel Beckett’s choice of the title Ohio Impromptu to name the play first performed to an audience of academics and scholars at Columbus Ohio in 1981 is one manifestation of its author’s interest in the question of literary genre; more generally, in Beckett’s dramatic works one encounters a meticulous attention to the activity of categorisation, even if the energy is often directed toward the creation of phantom genres for spectral exemplars. This essay concerns itself with Ohio Impromptu in particular because by means of elements specific to this play it comments upon its own very failure to occupy its designated genre co-ordinates. This play, which is so apt to incorporate other genres, however, is presided over by a stage direction which locates it firmly in the theatrical context. It is in its deliberate failure to attend to this stage direction that the Beckett on Film version of the play goes beyond the mere treacherous fidelity that is inevitably a feature of any adaptation. In arguing this, the essay analyses the foregrounding in the play of questions that can be said to pertain to genre. Its more specific intention is to suggest that, via a combination of casting and special effects, the adaptation succeeds not only in cancelling the critical reflection on the ‘genre gesture’ that is lodged in Ohio Impromptu, but also in eradicating the very disjunction between Reader and Listener upon which the play depends.
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