BWW Review: WAITING FOR GODOT, Arts Theatre
Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot returns to the Arts Theatre, 62 years after making its English-language debut at the same venue. This production focuses on the play's essence, with director Peter Reid stripping off all frills.
Tramps Didi (Nick Devlin) and Gogo (Patrick O'Donnell) are waiting by a tree on a country road for a man named Godot. They have never met him and aren't sure when he should come around; the only thing they know is that once he comes, they will be saved.
During their wait, they try to pass the time and have two odd encounters with (apparently) the same men: Pozzo (Paul Kealyn) and his slave Lucky (Paul Elliot), and a young boy who tells them that Godot couldn't make it that evening, but will certainly meet them the day after that. And so, Dido and Gogo wait, hoping the man will come and save them from themselves.
Reid lets Beckett's piece be what it exactly is: a play where nothing happens. The bare stage is a visual representation for the soul of the show and its characters, and the director relies heavily - and solely - on the script and his company, displaying true dedication to the material. The lack of embellishments and gimmicks makes the actors stand out, and, while it might seem a bit uninspired, fits the spirit of the masterpiece.
The staging is in line with Beckett's vision: a simple tree with two branches (which have an ingenious curve just above the actors' heads so they fit under it perfectly) and a boulder where Gogo mainly sits and sleeps. The milky backdrop is projected with dusk-coloured shades until the two acts end, leaving space for a night-sky tint and a moon that mesmerises the characters.
The traditional approach emphasises the subtle comedy that imbues Beckett's views about existence. O'Donnell and Devlin aim the spotlight on Gogo and Didi's friendship, at times softly stirring it towards a slight co-dependence that leads to delightful banter typical of old married couples. The stark difference between the two encounters between the pair and the shiny and guffawing Pozzo is the gateway to a climax that never comes, and the audience's thoughts are given air by Didi's "I don't know what to think anymore".
Kealyn and Elliot are equally strong as Pozzo and Lucky, becoming Didi and Gogo's entertainment for a while. Kealyn's Pozzo is boisterous and makes for a clever counterpart to the two main characters and Lucky. Elliot's physicality is worldly and expressive in his submission to Pozzo, but the actor comes alive as soon as his character is given the chance (or rather, ordered) to "think".
Ultimately, Reid's production is a authoritative take on the play. It's exactly what one would expect, superbly acted and vividly enigmatic. Among major climate disasters and a shifting political scenery, Waiting for Godot resonates more than ever with audiences living this unsureness and ambiguity. The production's simplicity and essential (essentialistic too) nature is definitely refreshing.
Photo credit: Barry Rivett