Behind the scenes of Go On with Linda McLean

In our production of Go On by Linda McLean, Jane (Maureen Beattie) considers how an AI replacement might allow her to exist in the future. The play has been paired with Beckett's iconic piece, Krapp's Last Tape in a double bill by Artistic Director, Dominic Hill.

Linda takes us behind the scenes and tell us about the play and her appreciation of Beckett's work.

Photo Alex Brady

I have a particular fondness for Krapp’s Last Tape, and Rockaby. The cryptic crossword lover in me enjoys the puzzle and poetry of them. I particularly like the fact that the drawing of the blind is included in Krapp’s Last Tape and is also a motif in Rockaby. (I noticed some years ago that every play I write has the next one embedded in it so it gives me a wee thrill to see that in other plays.)

But it’s the way Beckett exposes both Krapp and himself that I admire most. The pain and longing for abandoned people and places; the fear of not being good enough; the understanding that when death does finally come it will find him wanting, if not occasionally absurd. And love. What of that?

An artist friend once told me that when she went to art school her lecturer told her that the job of the artist, apart from progressing their talent, was to unearth their question, their very own question that might finally reveal who they were to themselves. And each work should bring them closer to understanding it. 

In Krapp’s Last Tape it’s the recording machine that holds all Krapp’s memories and associations. Our job is to piece together not only his past but also his emotions as he listens to or skips over them.

Photo Alex Brady

In Go On, it’s the AI, Jayne, who will hold all of Jane’s memories and their wider, weirder associations – the ones her family would expect her to know. 

The idea of an AI replacement at the heart of Go On is rooted in a family joke. Whenever I behaved in a way my kids thought was out of character they’d accuse me of being a replicant, or a pod person. Going one step further they created a coded question that only true members of our family would be able to answer so they’d know whether they were talking to the replicant or the real mum! So it wasn’t a great leap for me to take the technology of Krapp’s Last Tape and apply it to our latest robotic obsessions. 

Photo Alex Brady

But the idea that one day you may want to, or have to, train an AI to represent you in the real world doesn’t explain why you would do that. I raised this question with my son, making it a condition that the person taking your place could not be put in mortal danger. As soon as I asked it we hit on the same answer. And that’s the undertow of the play. 

Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic

I have no idea how Samuel Beckett would feel about Go On sharing a stage with Krapp’s Last Tape. I hope he wouldn’t mind too much. I imagine a slight smile at the humour, surprise at what we can now say in theatre, maybe a recognition of a soul exposed. I’m sure he knew that for the most part we’re such mysteries to ourselves that we can only hope to gain understanding by baring ourselves in front of others. 

And oh Lordy isn’t that the joy and terror of putting a play in front of an audience? When I started down this road I thought it would get easier, but no no no, the more layers you reveal the more terror you feel when they’re exposed. But we go on.

Our double bill of Krapp's Last Tape and Go On is at the Tron Theatre 30 September - 9 October. Find out more.