... waiting for Godot
A country road, a tree, two men and nothing much happens… well, sort of; La Mama has brought back …waiting for Godot and its rough white-over-black painted walls, its large, vertical, wooden plank which disperses by means of nailed on wooden boards as ‘branches’ across the ceiling and two men… and nothing much happens. Which is exactly what is supposed to happen in Samuel Beckett’s infamous play about Vladimir and Estragon who dutifully wait for Godot, who, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but, never really arrives.
The intimate house-come-theatre at La Mama provides an ideal setting for this play, which always feels like it could be anywhere at any time – and, I guess, nowhere and never simultaneously. The set looked wonderful; relatively bare, but never dull and the stairs provided a unique opportunity to have the messenger from Godot descend from above. Similarly, the lighting was simple and effective, transitioning slowly from morning until crepuscule and finally, with transient effort into a flicker of fluorescent light which illuminated the night.
As the two leads John Flaus and Bruce Kerr, playing Vladimir and Estragon respectively, embodied the weathered characters. They both did reletively well with the dialogue and pauses, however, the prompting that occurred detracted almost detrimentally from the production. Aside from this, in essence, they captured the tragicomic nature of the play and utilised the space well with their wanderings, musings and malarkey. Still, I found that the real moments of humorous pathos lay in Pozzo and Lucky (Peter Finlay and Alex Pinder). These characters were wonderfully realised and were the perfect larger-than-life counterparts to Vladimir and Estragon. The two, while they had smaller roles, could hardly be faulted. From the gregarious and booming voice of Pozzo to the silent stare of Lucky, these two were fun to watch and engaged the audience’s attention. The young boy, played by Vivian Schmieder did a fine job playing a small but vital role.
The direction by Laurence Strangio is thought-out and considered, without being inspired. While he clearly understands the play, at times it feels as though the actors are going through the motions – and not in a stylistic way which comments on the human condition; which is there sometimes too – but rather some pauses felt rushed and others not quite long enough. This was not helped by the prompting and dropped lines. Still, it is a difficult feat for a director to not be swallowed by the text and Strangio does an exemplary job at branding this production with his mark without being overly radical, flamboyant or resorting to anything controversial; he honours the text well.
The play is ultimately a difficult one because while it is important and a literary classic the audience lives in a society in which self and meta referencing is ubiquitous. And therefore, many of the profound concepts posed by Beckett seem almost self-evident these days. With no offense meant to either party shows like Seinfeld or the Cohen Brothers’ films often take the idea that ‘nothing happens and yet it is in that nothing that we find meaning’ to far more comedic extremes. Arguably Godot, therefore, seems somewhat self-indulgent in its notions, or at least the staging of it does. However, while at times the point feels laboured, it is inherently a masterful and important script which still is worth a watch. Everyone should see a production of Waiting for Godot at some point in their lives and this one is a much more solid and well-rounded staging than most.