Mysterious, geometric and symmetrical, Quad is an intricately choreographed movement sequence devised by Samuel Beckett. Four figures outline a quadrangle to a rapid, percussive beat. A pattern emerges and collisions are avoided. Written originally as a television play, this is a rare opportunity to see what may be Beckett’s most formal work.
Pan Pan Theatre Company works with acclaimed dance company, Irish Modern Dance Theatre and Conor Houghton, a reader in mathematical neuroscience at Bristol University and former Trinity College Dublin lecturer, to demonstrate, explain and discuss this riveting work.
Filmed for German television and presented on October 8, 1981, the fifteen minute Quad I & II may be Beckett’s most formal work, geometric and symmetrical. One, then two, then three, then four figures, each in pastel djellabas, appear in succession to describe a quadrangle to a rapid, polyrhythmic, percussion beat, then depart in sequence. Each describes half the Quad, tracing the incommensurability of side and diagonal, and, in Beckett’s most vivid image of post‑modern literary theory, each abruptly avoids the centre, each makes a ‘jerky turn to his left as a diversion away from it’. It may first appear that ‘they were avoiding one another, but gradually one realized they were avoiding the center. There was something terrifying about it . . . It was danger’. The action at first appears comic, almost slapstick, as characters rush toward an apparent central collision, but collision is avoided by the abrupt turns. The pattern is repeated, from one to four, then back to none in an oscillation, a crescendo and diminuendo of movement which shatters whatever comic possibilities were present initially. The final effect is one of prescribed, determined, enforced motion. One is reminded of Winnie’s assessment: ‘What a curse mobility’.
S. E. Gontarski
“In all, a timely reminder of the genius of Beckett, the importance and limits of structure and of the sometimes strange perfection that is the imperfect human being. . . . Quad is both intriguing and engaging . . . it is a brave and rewarding attempt to fuse theory and practice and the result is both viscerally and intellectually stimulating.”
“The real joy in combining science with art came to Dublin a couple of weeks ago when Samuel Beckett’s Quad was performed in the Dublin Dance Festival. . . . a hugely satisfying piece of theatre. Beckett’s imperfection was good, but science made it better.”
Eithne Shortall, Sunday Times Culture Vulture
“This is a truly original theatrical experience that engages an audience intellectually, visually and aurally.”
No More Workhorse