Waiting For Godot
Direction: Ross Jolly (written by Samuel Beckett)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (May 4 – June 1)
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot is as close to his existential novels as it is to his other theatre pieces – and when it first arrived on the stage post WWII, pre-The Beatles, it was a revelation. Remarkably, it still is. “Nothing to be done?” We are told/asked early on – we watch as the two characters on the stage (Andrew Foster is Vladimir, Jeff Kingsford-Brown is Estragon) lob unanswerable questions in a philosophical tennis match of dialogue. They, as we know from the title, are waiting for Godot. But who – or what – is Godot? Is it a metaphor, a pen-name for God? Is it a catch-all for anything new, for something to sweep them away from the mundane existence of purely waiting?
Godot’s themes abound – religion/spirituality, comradery/companionship, boredom, death, the intolerable delay in knowing what form the inevitable might happen to take…but in terms of narrative it’s all exposition and no plot. That was – and still is – a bold move. It was a door-opener then and now it seems to exist to still tell us much (and even much more) about ourselves.
Though there’s little scenery to chew in Andrew Foster’s stark, modernist set (greys and a bare tree with a moon projected on the back wall) Peter Hambleton still has a mighty munch when he arrives mid-scene to dominate in both acts with his grotesque and wonderful slave-owner Pozzo. Jack Buchanan is wildly impressive as the unlucky punk-slave Lucky. He stoops, bent over, silent for most of his appearance. He is beaten, he falls, he dances while tethered, his madcap monologue is both silence- and wall-breaking. And his efforts are electric.
But where and what is the mirror? When we meet Pozzo and Lucky again they’re still connected by the rope. But the dynamic has shifted. Their slave/master relationship is different now. Their needs have shifted. Their reliance has as result. Are they a dream within a dream? And are they there to remind us of the push and pull and love and hate in any relationship that’s lasted as long as the bumbling shoe-shuffling of Estragon and Vladimir?
Questions. Nothing but questions. No answers arrive in this play. They’re for you to contemplate after.
But I did laugh at the way that Pozzo’s way of shifting the mood from him being the brute with an explanation of Lucky’s viciousness has taken on a whole new meaning since I last saw a production of this classic. Our internet-rage and the pile-ons pitchforking for cancel-culture’s foolish errands have their precedent here perhaps.
It’s the energy of the words and inventiveness – the freedom – of not seeking a conclusion, of not needing a punchline or a mark to hit that seemingly imbues this production. And so its director and actors all respond as such – delivering very fine work.
In the second act the tree has blossomed – signalling both hope and a passing of time – but still nothing has (actually) changed. Until we meet Lucky and Pozzo again. And then we have only further hints of the apocalyptic purgatory, the claw of this fever-dream.
I last saw Waiting For Godot some 20 years ago. To see it again was startling, revitalising, dismaying, distressing and wholly wonderful. That’s all that Beckett and this fine cast and crew could ask for I’m sure.
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Waiting For Godot