Two homeless men occupy a space. They aren’t going anywhere. In fact, it seems that the only other two things on stage, a skeletal tree and an inert rock, are more likely to move on from this place than these two clowns. It’s been over 60 years since Samuel Beckett’s most famous work premiered at this very venue, The Arts Theatre, and its two protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, are still waiting. They always will be. What are they waiting for? Well, in a particularly aggressive case of using the name of the play as dialogue, we are repeatedly reminded that they are, of course, Waiting For Godot.
This is an immensely watchable production of a play that essentially asks you to sit back for over two hours and be told that life is meaningless, we’re all already dead and any meaning we do find in life is just self-deceit. If you aren’t in the right mood, or already spend enough time thinking existentially when you’re trying to get to sleep at night, it may be a little overwhelming. But you’ll also find joy in this production. There’s joy in the playful friendship between Vladimir and Estragon, played with a kind of goofy dignity by Nick Devlin and Patrick O’Donnell. It’s a friendship that can at one moment remind us of the unifying power of shared storytelling, and the next of the horrific habitual compulsions that feed toxic relationships. There’s joy in Paul Kealyn’s performance as Pozzo, whose ferocious energy and unpredictable emotions have us laughing shamefully at his disgusting treatment of slave Lucky (Paul Elliot). There’s even joy in the simple but quite beautiful way that the projected backdrop changes from day to night, as suddenly and as subtly as it can in real life.
While the bizarre synchronized mannerisms of the characters often illuminate and amuse, they occasionally seem too choreographed. Also, in the second half the nihilism is really hammered home with a monologue that overtly says what has been so brilliantly portrayed through action so far. However, the religious angle of this very interpretable text (or the ‘God’ in ‘Godot’) is
deliciously underplayed and there’s great fun had in the chaotic, farcical clowning that develops when Pozzo and Lucky join our two companions in the void. These characters are so recognisably human and yet so distinctly other, it’s a pleasure and a riddle to watch them interact.
Leaving the theatre I was reminded of the feeling of coming up for air after being immersed in an intense binge watch of Game of Thrones. Undeniably what I’ve just watched is of high quality, I understand the hype, but did I really need to see how life has no value in so many different ways? Ah well, it passed the time. - Henry Gleaden