BWW Review: Nothing is Everything in Soulpepper's WAITING FOR GODOT
What's the point if there is no point to the point? (Other than the fact that Samuel Beckett is much more eloquent than I will ever be.) Beckett's masterpiece, WAITING FOR GODOT proves its relevance in Soulpepper's riveting revival, opening their 2017-18 season. GODOT's structure, atmosphere and design plays like a contemplation on mindfulness - a search for meaning, in the seemingly meaningless.
In WAITING FOR GODOT, Estragon (Oliver Dennis) and Vladimir (Diego Matamoros) wait at a desolate crossroads for a man they've never met, named "Godot". After exhausting every method imaginable to cure their boredom and restlessness, a gentleman by the name of Pozzo (Rick Roberts) appears with his slave, Lucky (Alex McCooeye). Time and space dissipate as Estragon and Vladimir confront their motives in waiting for a man that has never, and it seems will never, arrive.
Classical meditation involves a similar journey in patience. You sit and wait for enlightenment to arrive - to lose one's sense of self. You can do nothing but wait. Thoughts will come, but the point is to acknowledge them and let them pass. It takes practice. Each time you practice, you get a little bit closer to this "enlightenment", until you realize that the thing that you're waiting for - is absolutely nothing. No-thing is the thing.
This explanation of mindfulness is GODOT, for me. Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for Godot to arrive and "save them". They know nothing of this "Godot", yet Vladimir waits religiously. He is focused, he has faith that Godot will come. Estragon on the other hand, questions and doubts - while still waiting blindly. If we are to further analyze the role that Pozzo and Lucky play in this interpretation - I see them as a reflection of humanity. Pozzo represents the unenlightened - grasping at fleeting pleasures, but ultimately resigned to suffering. Lucky represents the enlightened. He has accepted his role. Beckett has repeatedly stated that there is no meaning to the work, beyond the text - but the play practically begs to be interpreted.
The structure of Beckett's text alone creates a very zen atmosphere. It is repetitive, philosophical and incomparably witty. Director Daniel Brooks has done wonders with the piece, filling it to the brim with comedic, physical blocking. Brooks' all-encompassing vision never falters. Each moment is carefully calculated, transforming a relatively uneventful plot into inaction at its most compelling. Lorenzo Savoini's exquisite, sparse staging beautifully focuses all attention on the interpretation of the text by the fantastic interpreters.
Oliver Dennis and Diego Matamoros as Estragon and Vladimir are just that - fantastic. Under Brooks' guidance, their artistic timing, inflection and commitment to the piece carry the show. Beckett is completely ingrained in their bodies and minds. Rick Roberts and Alex McCooeye also give exceptional performances as Pozzo and Lucky. Richie Lawrence embodies innocence and naivety as Boy. I've never witnessed an audience so completely under the spell of the performance.
WAITING FOR GODOT is truly an experience piece. It leaves you with more questions than answers - as theatre should. You sit, watch and wait while the characters sit, watch and wait. Personally, the piece is a testament to the power of being present. Soulpepper's production is a collision of brilliant choices, making for one of the finest nights of theatre I've ever had.
WAITING FOR GODOT is presented by Soulpepper and runs through October 7th, 2017 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Distillery Historic District, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://soulpepper.ca/performances/waiting-for-godot/4082 or call the box office at 1-888-898-1188
Approximate running time: 3 hours including one 20 minute intermission
(main photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)