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BWW Review: Waiting Never Felt So Good in WAITING FOR GODOT

"Nothing happens," thunders Estragon, "nobody comes, nobody goes - it's awful!" We are, of course, in the existential nowhere of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's modern masterpiece, which flings metaphysical anguish up against slapstick comedy.

In this startling, penetrating production, Druid Theatre breathes new life into the familiarity of Beckett's 1953 script.

Central to this achievement is the relationship conjured between Estragon and Vladimir, the two dishevelled men standing on a bleak country road unsure of who they are waiting for, why they're waiting, or whether they're waiting in the right place.

Spending much of his time sitting on a rock because he can't stand on his blood-stained feet, Aaron Monaghan affectingly reveals Estragon's desperation. His face stamped with a hangdog, puzzled, and anguished expression, Monaghan is typically hunched over, his hands wrapped around his arms.

This fearsome intensity provides an effective counterweight to the relentless enthusiasm of Marty Rea's Vladimir. Infusing his character with exuberance, Rea is impulsive and agile as he portrays Vladimir ricocheting from childish tantrum, to pantomime indignation, to cartoonish outrage, but who also subtly conveys Vladimir's struggle to sustain his companion.

Exploiting the physical disparity between the lanky Rea and the shorter Monaghan to amplify the script's physical comedy, there is a balletic precision to their interplay as they waltz together, walk arm-in-arm, or confront each other like duellists.

This beautifully-observed relationship is enhanced by its symmetry: when the characters fall, they are splayed in identical shapes on the ground; when they stand, they rise in unison.

As the ghostly-pallid, bald, and rotund Pozzo, Rory Nolan invests his depiction with an apt self-satisfaction and volcanic temper as he nonchalantly bullies the swollen-eyed and open-mouthed Lucky (Garret Lombard). The desolation with which Nolan delivers Pozzo's devastating coda encapsulates the pathos that bleeds through this production.

In the confined space of The Mick Lally Theatre, Francis O'Connor's set design imaginatively mines Beckett's script: the tapping sounds that Lucky's shoes make as his feet feverishly cross the dirty cobblestones - to fulfil Pozzo's orders - magnify our sympathy for this wretched, ironically-named character

Under an intuitive, supple direction, Garry Hynes deftly marries the script's anarchic humour with its infinite despondency, and, at the tail end of each act, significantly switches the mood of the production.

As a moon ascends mechanically to the sound of an industrial hum, Hynes evokes a woozy, eerie tableau: bathed in a blue light, Estragon and Vladimir become stunted, almost anesthetized in a gesture that underlines the inherent hopelessness of their plight. It's a bold gamble, but, like everything else in this arresting production, reaps rich dividends.

Photo credit: Mathew Thompson

Waiting for Godot plays at The Mick Lally Theatre, Galway, Ireland, as part of the Galway International Arts Festival, until July 27. The production then embarks on an 'Unusual Rural Tour' until July 30. See druid.ie.



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