Waiting for Godot – a review
“There are no more juicy parts amongst modern classics than Didi and Gogo – Vladimir and Estragon to you – the tramps who wait for Godot.” Ian McKellen
We were in Newcastle to see one of the 20th century’s most celebrated plays, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. This most hyped production brings to the same stage Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup. It’s a hot number. All the tickets have sold out and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, it is a roaring success.
The production makes no apologies in playing for laughs, the humour, as always, underpinning a gulf of tragedy. But it also underlines a wealth of warmth and concern between the two protagonists – Vladimir and Estragon – who are presented rather convincingly as a double-act, often reminiscent of the music-hall, although to younger audiences they will be reminders of more recent popular television partnerships. On a slightly different level they are like an old married couple, held together by strands of affection and memory and habit, but tending to take each other for granted.
The two have known each for years and have known better times. But when we meet them they are homeless and destitute. Patrick Stewart’s Vladimir has accepted some responsibility for the welfare of his friend, and he works at it conscientiously, though it is a thankless task and one that is bound to fail. McKellen’s Estragon, on the other hand, is a world-weary man who would really like to disappear. He often brings up the subject of suicide, he has no boots that fit, and his nights in a ditch are always interrupted by a kicking from local thugs.
Simon Callow is Potzo; and Ronald Pickup’s hapless Lucky is anything but. Director Sean Mathias has a triumph on his hands.
(When Pozzo and Lucky have left the stage in Act 1):
VLADIMIR: That passed the time.
ESTRAGON: It would have passed in any case.
This is a play in which everyone is waiting, the characters who form the centre of the play; the actors who play them; and the audience. But towards the end of each act a small boy appears with a message from Godot. He is involved in a small exchange with Vladimir and then he departs. It seems that he is the only one in the entire theatre who is not waiting – this child.
From April 30, the play moves to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. I had more to say about the script in my last review.
POZZO: (suddenly furious.) Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.