Matt Wolf
Published: 26th June 2012

As proof that micro-theater has its rewards, as well, it's worth commending the recent return to the stage of Alan Howard. Now 74, the former R.S.C. mainstay appeared earlier this month for four performances of as many Beckett monologues that went by the collective name of the most baleful of the lot, "Old Earth". Directed by Jonathan Holmes, the event formed part of east London's annual Spitalfields music festival and came accompanied by an incantatory score from the composer Alec Roth, performed by the early-music choral group the Sixteen.

Running 50 minutes, the piece set a quintessentially Beckettian face-off with death against the animation of Mr. Howard, more limited of movement nowadays but as piercing a stage presence as ever. Near the finish, the actor gave a sad, knowing smile of which Beckett would undoubtedly have approved. "Every third thought shall be my grave," Prospero lets slip in "The Tempest," but until that point, as Mr. Howard's very being makes clear, all that's left to us is life.