what are we waiting for?

But of course, we are Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Another play, directed by Emma Gill, that is part of the 3rd year directors season playing at St Mary’s University College this month. A play that, for those working in the theatre realm, will be very familiar with for a number of reasons.

“Waiting for Godot was recently voted the most significant English language play of the 20th century in a British Royal National Theatre poll of 800 playwrights, actors, directors and journalists.” Berlin, N., ‘Traffic of our stage: Why Waiting for Godot?’ In The Massachusetts Review, Autumn 1999.

As you can imagine, there was a certain amount of hype surrounding this production within the drama body and it delivered to an extent. Two waiting ladies

The play involves the two main characters, Estragon and Vladimir, waiting somewhere they’re not even sure is the right place or time and for somebody who they know very little about. The only description of a whereabouts is next to a tree, the only one in sight is a good enough reason for them to be there. We witness the two characters talk, play, argue, sleep, irritate and contemplate suicide, to name but a few of the more accurate activities.

It is a play about patience, a patience with no ‘sugar coating’ that the audience are invariably accustomed to withhold. However, the patience is rewarded with two fine performances from Lindsay Amy Hall and Joanna Mary Davey who lend their characters a precise energy which is inevitably required from any of Beckett’s works. Something which I particularly enjoyed about this piece was, in fact, the silences. It was if they were given their own theme of tuts, looks and sniffs, etc. which gave the piece a distinct feel.

Female actors playing, quite clearly, male parts under Beckett’s text, you ask? Shock horror! Well, this isn’t the first time it’s been done, even though Beckett has strongly opposed such a ‘crime’. Although the play is strictly male, I think it should be open to female, if not any, interpretation, because, as I’ve seen here, can work extremely well if done correctly.

The adaptation made by Gill is informed, precise and honest and provides the play with a feeling – that women are impatient too! The actors embrace the changes and don’t overplay them, something which could have easily been done when such an obvious change has been made. So, here I support the challenge that Gill and co. have taken on. After all, shouldn’t theatre be about the individual flair that can be brought to them by the changes made?

The staging was clear and simple, a well crafted white wooden tree and a pile of white rocks (this method quite clearly leads to some success when directing a short piece in the round – a paradigm without too much room for design freedom) and the overall playing style gives a certain ensemble feel to a piece with so few characters.

Overall, I did feel there was something lacking. Perhaps it is the text, so pure and, in a sense, uneventful, or maybe it was the fact that it was only a small part of, what has become, an epic play. I never really got to know who these characters were and the actual waiting for Godot to appear, wasn’t perhaps emphasised as much as I’d have liked. For people who don’t know the play, he never actually comes, and so putting across the belief that he will show is a nice little trick to play.

Nevertheless, I left the performance satisfied in the fact that bold adaptations can be made successfully when given a great deal of thought. How many times have we seen a rap version of Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet fall flat on its face? Here, it certainly didn’t and so commendations all round.

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