Monday, March 7, 2011

Waiting for Godot

The Estate of Samuel Beckett maintains tight control over how his plays are performed, with productions expected to strictly adhere to his stage directions.  Maybe this is partly what makes Waiting for Godot such a classic piece of theatre, that it hasn't been constantly 'reinterpreted' according to the latest social trends or vogues of director's theatre.  There are a finite amount of elements to play with, maybe five characters (six if you include the unseen Godot) a tree, some boots, some root vegetables... However, this restriction also makes it fascinating to compare different productions.

photo: Daniel Austin

Jersey Arts Centre's recent Waiting for Godot was directed by Daniel Austin (17 - 19 February) with a refreshing lightness of touch.  Craig Hamilton and Andrew Oliveira were a younger Estragon and Vladimir than usually seen, but this helped to reinforce a dreamlike quality, a sense of the unreality of time which is in the text anyway.  Part clown, part tramp they were boisterous and still, poignant and lyrical, making the characters fresh.  I liked the way Vladimir scuttled across the stage with the posture of a farm labourer.

Richard Pedley's sadistic ringmaster/demonic patrician of a Pozzo was very sinister, wringing humour from each mannerism and tortured syllable, and Simon Macdonald's Lucky suitably cringing and bizarre.  And last but not least, Tom McGoldrick's boy confidently closed each act with news of the illusive Godot.

Graeme Humphries' exquisite design - white floor cloth and white cyclorama and a real tree (Himalayan Birch) looked good enough to eat, like a pristine iced cake, while giving a sense of enclosure.  His simple lighting design gradually suffused the stage over the course of each act with the corals and pinks of sunset, giving an air of enchantment, and ending with a cool blue moonlight. 

photo: Daniel Austin

It brought to mind this painting by Caspar David Friedrich which Beckett apparently attributed as a source of inspiration for the play:

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon
Caspar David Friedrich ca.1824
A beautiful and high quality production.  Hopefully we can look forward to more such in coming seasons. 

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