His approach was straightforward. “I am basically going straight from the written text and instructions. And then you question what Beckett didn’t specify, what is not excluded,” he said. “On purpose, I didn’t memorize or plan anything before starting.”
Although he said he was initially “nervous and feeling like a charlatan,” he found the process deeply interesting. The hardest part, he said, was the dancers’ anxiety about memorizing the lines in “Come and Go” and “Catastrophe,” in which he will also perform. Following in Harold Pinter’s footsteps (no pressure!) he will play a director rehearsing an unnamed play in which an immobile man (“The Protagonist”) on a podium is physically exposed and manipulated. “It’s much more horrific than I thought, but also much funnier,” Mr. Morris said. In an email, he said he had decided to play the director “so I’d have something to do in the festival with my friends.”
“It’s also very like my real job,” he added.
“At the beginning I didn’t realize I would have to speak,” Ms. Clark said. “As a trained dancer, you know there are infinite possibilities in how you connect Shape 1 and Shape 2,” she said. “I realized you had to think about words like that, in terms of timing and connection.”
Mr. Morris began with “Quad,” which, he said, “seems like a dance Lucinda Childs might have thought of.” Mr. Knowlson wrote of “Quad” in “The Life of Samuel Beckett,” that “this nonverbal piece for four dancers also developed naturally out of Beckett’s interest in choreographing movement and from his radical mistrust of language.” In the piece, which Beckett created in his 70s, four figures in brightly colored djellabas move to a percussive beat along the sides and across the diagonals of a square, avoiding the middle and one another.
Beckett wrote a detailed scheme for the order and sequencing of the movement, but didn’t specify the pace or the instruments. Mr. Morris decided to use four musicians, one linked to each dancer, and worked out the musical parts with the composer Ethan Iverson, a frequent collaborator. “The piece is radical, but the way it’s done is very pragmatic, just putting breath into it,” he said. “The timing is actually much harder than it looks; the point isn’t virtuosity, it’s expertise.”