This talk addresses the politics and aesthetics of ageing and disability in the work of playwright Samuel Beckett. It focuses on Beckett’s 1957 play Endgame, taking as test case a recent production of Endgame by two well-known American character actors who have Parkinson’s disease. The paper will explores the way in which this production, and Beckett’s theatre in general, has the potential to subvert the operation of what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson has called the ableist ‘stare’. It thinks about the way in which what Sianne Ngai calls ‘ugly feelings’ generated by ageing and disability on the part of both disabled and able subjects might be turned to aesthetic effect and, in so doing, be shared and critiqued. Beckett’s theatre productively dismantles the idea of passing (as either able-bodied or disabled) as it has been applied in disability studies, allowing it to trouble the distinctions upon which the concept of disability rests.
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