Pros: This is a top-drawer production of an interesting and challenging work. Characters were perfectly portrayed in a barren in-the-round set that lends itself stunningly to the themes of the play.
Cons: I thought the comic timing was slightly off, and some of the intended humour didn’t deliver.
I have to say I feel privileged to have seen this production of, reputedly, one of the greatest plays of the Twentieth Century. It is a deftly staged production, maximising the impact of its sparse set to underpin the themes of the play. Two tramp-like characters, Vladimir and Estragon, meet by a roadside as they have done many times before to wait for Godot. Why is never specified and Godot never appears. Instead they meet Pozzo, an upper class gentleman and his serf, Lucky. Humour, pathos, absurdity and intelligence inhabit the banter between the characters that each serve to provide insight into the social nuances of their times. In contrast to the simplistic plot, this complicated psychological analysis creates a wonderful richness and depth.
But what are the themes of the play? So much is open to interpretation, as the script and staging suggest so much but define so little. The discourse between the two central characters reveals much about their expectations, their affectionate attachment to one another, and their feelings on life and death. Vladimir appears resolved and positive whereas Estragon is disillusioned, considering suicide everyday.
I felt the overwhelming theme was the futility of life itself, and this was thread through the endless waiting, the waiting for a man of some promise who does not appear. This seems to be supported by the other characters: Pozzo, though wealthy, is debilitated by memory loss, and Lucky, though a man of more distinct purpose, is treated poorly and worked almost to death. But there are so many layers to this play; I found in a bit of background reading that it is a much studied and analysed work of incredible depth.
The performances are wonderful. Kenneth Colley’s Estragon is downbeat, defeatist, and softly spoken in contrast to Peter Marinker’s intellectual and sanguine Vladimir. They played off each other beautifully throughout the play but for some reason the comic timing seemed to misfire; quiet chuckles were audible where bigger laughs probably should have been. That said they are infinitely watchable. Joe Cushley has a commanding presence as Pozzo. I was also very impressed with the consistency with which Jermiah O’Connor delivers a crumbling, shattered Lucky. It is a physically demanding part and O’Connor played it with real finesse.
The Godot Company have gone to great lengths to produce this play as Beckett himself penned it, having access to Beckett’s notes and discussions with those who knew Beckett personally. In doing so, they appear to have stripped the script bare of any directorial interpretation and left the audience to take their own journey as we wait for Godot. It’s challenging as there is no obvious path, and Beckett is not one to hold the audience’s hand through his work. It’s at times confusing and might be hard work for those who like a more traditional format, but it is really worth seeing if only just to tick it of your list of great works of art.
Author: Samuel Beckett
Presented by: The Godot Company and The Cockpit
Booking Until: 29 October 2014
Box Office: 020 7258 2925
Booking Link: http://tickets.thecockpit.org.uk/Sales/Shows/Waiting-For-Godot#book