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By Dian Henderson

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The more acute the experience the less articulate its expression” (Esslin 1980: 243). The implications of this position for the practice of acting are considerable, extending, for the purposes of this essay, to Shakespearean performance and to the relations between words, actions, stage presence and character. Hall recognised, and developed, the connection almost immediately: “Pinter is to me the most significant new English dramatist and one very relevant to Shakespeare . . His writing has the balance, the inevitability, and the precision of poetry” (Hall 1964: 46).

As he sums it up, “rapid shifts are the stock in trade of film” (1968: 301). This idea grounds the historiographic narrative that emerges as Ball surveys the different ways Shakespearean materials are handled in silent film: a narrative of progress from primitive, “theatrical” devices to modern, “cinematic” ones that privileges speed and discontinuity. Ball’s discussion of an early Lear adaptation, Louis Feuillade’s marvelous Le Roi Lear au village/A Village King Lear (1911, Gaumont), typifies the pattern.

The plays of Samuel Beckett were instrumental in introducing the technique to the English stage: 21 22 11 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 81 9 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 711 ROBERT SHAUGHNESSY Peter Hall’s 1955 Arts Theatre production of Waiting for Godot, with its pauses “lengthened to the point of embarrassment before being broken” (Knowlson 1996: 414) set a precedent. The idea that silence might be as significant (or, in absurdist terms, as insignificant) as speech would become axiomatic within both avant-garde and naturalistic drama by the end of the decade, although it could signify very differently: in Beckett’s hands, the void between words was an existential one, whereas in the ultra-naturalist plays of Arnold Wesker, “slowness and silence”, according to T.

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