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‘Here All Night’ delivers an uplifting, musical night of Samuel Beckett

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Here All Night’ delivers an uplifting, musical night of Samuel Beckett
“Here All Night” plays through Oct. 9 at Arts Emerson. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy Arts Emerson)

Samuel Beckett’s work comes to life in a whole new way this week on the ArtsEmerson stage. “Here All Night,” presented by Gare St Lazare Players Ireland, reinterprets the work of Samuel Beckett, with an emphasis on music. The troupe has been a champion of Beckett’s work for years, but this is the first production that focuses on music both within Beckett’s work and inspired by him. It comes to Boston as part of the company’s centenary celebration of the 1916 Easter Rising, which led to Irish independence. Actor and co-artistic director of the company Conor Lovett says, “It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. It’s a way of reflecting back to you what’s already going on in your world.”

Beckett included music in a number of his works, while composer Paul Clark drew inspiration from Beckett’s work; both coexist in the score. Although for Clark it has been second nature, for Lovett, learning to work with the music posed a fresh challenge. He enacts Beckett’s spoken dialogue throughout the show.

“I’m feeding some the music into the text that I’m performing,” says Lovett. “It’s very accessible, very beautiful music.”

Gare St Lazare Ireland chose the singers for the six-member choir from Boston talent, further connecting with the city.

“Here All Night” wasn’t created by Beckett, but it’s “of” Beckett, based on three of his prose works and celebrating an amalgamation of thoughts and feelings.

“It’s not a linear narrative,” says Lovett. “It’s not a story, but it touches on the themes of the head and the heart, and the differences between logic and emotion.”

Although Beckett’s work — particularly “Waiting for Godot” — frequently is heralded as heavy, Lovett says that there is quite a bit of absurdist humor to be had in his canon and in the show. The immersive, reflective nature of the performance mirrors the contemplative qualities of Beckett’s writing. For audience members looking to get into Beckett’s dark groove, Lovett recommends starting with some of his short stories or plays, though some may be harder to get your hands on. He cites “The End” and “Molloy” as illustrative.

Meanwhile, “Here All Night” intertwines performance with an onstage multimedia art installation by Brian O’Doherty. “Hello, Sam Redux, 2016” is a visual representation of the act of suspending disbelief. Also a fan of Beckett, the artist faces themes of death, resurrection and celebration with a suspended corpse, surrounded by a skeletal frame. The art piece forms the backdrop during “Here All Night”; after the Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances the stage then will be reconfigured to enable it to be a stand-alone installation for audiences to experience in full.

Both Gare St Lazare Ireland and ArtsEmerson have reputations for immaculate, avant-garde performances, and “Here All Night” looks to be no exception. A feast for visual, auditory and intellectual senses, the production invites audiences to dive into the thoughtful, comedic and musical world of Beckett.

“Here All Night” is playing at ArtsEmerson through October 9.