It is completely fitting that a play written in France by an Irish playwright that first made its name in Germany is part of the Edinburgh International Festival and performed by an Irish company. Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot is now a modern classic whose stripped back style and defiance of definition remains open to wide interpretation.
Renowned Galway based theatre company, Druid, has homed in on the play’s inherent humour and raised it to Chaplinesque heightened comedy with stylised gestures from the all Irish cast.
It’s been said that nothing happens in Waiting for Godot and indeed the word ‘nothing’ features a fair bit along with the question of what to do now when there is ‘nothing to be done’.
Beside the classic single tree, here a stark windblown stick affair, manages to sprout just 3 leaves in act 2, and a stone like a big marble egg on the cracked ground, Estragon (Aaron Monaghan) and his fellow gentleman of the road, Vladimir (Marty Rea) wait for the elusive Godot. Their time in waiting is a condensed world that is at once strange yet utterly recognisable where the use of time is paramount as night follows day and day in turn follows night, all beautifully realised by Francis O’Conner’s design.
Their path is crossed briefly by Pozzo (Rory Nolan), a wealthy tyrant, and his human slave Lucky (Garrett Lombard) whose fatigue is palpable yet manages the astounding feat of spouting the world’s wisdom with his thinking hat on. They learn from a messenger that Godot will not be there tonight but certainly will the following day. Act 2 repeats this particular cycle of life with the additional elements of Pozzo having gone blind and Lucky dumb, while Didi and Gogo contemplate what to do while waiting and if you just ‘can’t go on’.
The full depth of the Lyceum space is not used, opting instead for a flat, shallow stage with a backdrop of a washed sky whose colour changes with gorgeous subtlety thanks to James F Ingalis lighting design. All this is framed by a rectangular light that creates a stage within a stage from Francis O’Conner whose work is not a stranger to the Lyceum.
This production of Becket’s genius meditation on the absurd nature of the human condition has, in putting the play’s humour in such high relief, managed to cancel out its subtlety. The interpretation brings a strange levity to Becket’s rich and astounding text that’s laden with wit better found as a hidden gem rather than being laid out in plain sight.
That said, the Company delivers immaculate performances without a beat being missed. ‘Tray bong. Tray, tray, tray bong.’
4-12 August at 7.30pm and 5 and 11 August at 2.30pm