WAITING FOR GODOT
by Samuel Beckett
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
March 23-April 23
604.280.3311 or www.ticketmaster.ca
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot tends to scare people away. It shouldn’t. One of the truly great works of the modern theatre, it’s often labeled nonsensical or absurd, a plotless, pointless exercise in which nothing happens—twice.
True, tramps Vladimir and Estragon (who call each other Didi and Gogo) wait by a road for someone named Godot to come, and he doesn’t. In act two they wait again. End of play.
This wasn’t a problem for an audience inside San Quentin prison in 1957. The inmates understood it perfectly. For them, killing time, fighting boredom, inventing meaning, and awaiting the verdict of a faceless, powerful authority figure was simply reality. Things haven’t changed that much, inside prison or out.
Besides, plenty happens. Didi and Gogo talk, play games, eat, pee, and consider hanging themselves. They’re visited in each act by egotistical landowner Pozzo and his slave, Lucky, who help pass the time, and by a boy who tells them Godot won’t be coming today but surely will tomorrow. Leaves appear on a barren tree. Life goes on.
Didi and Gogo put their fate in the hands of Godot—God? death? the state? “Let’s go! We can’t. Why not? We’re waiting for Godot.”
Morris Panych’s accessible, theatrically intelligent Arts Club production has real moments of greatness. Panych himself writes in the Beckettian vein, and he directs with a clear understanding of Beckett’s imperatives. Fill each moment to keep the terror of the unknown at bay. Acknowledge that human relations are based on power, but even the powerful are finally powerless in the face of time. Find the humour in the pain.
Vincent Gale as cerebral Didi and Stéphane Demers as visceral Gogo are charming actors. But both seemed a little nervous opening night, rushing through the first scenes, skating over Beckett’s lean poetic prose (“People are bloody ignorant apes”). Their naturalistic, film-style delivery, combined with Demers’ accent, made some rich comic lines difficult to hear. They hit their stride in the second act, where we clearly see their characters’ desperation and affection for one another.
Brian Markinson’s crisply self-dramatizing Pozzo and Peter Anderson’s astonishingly abject, emaciated Lucky set the standard. Markinson commands the stage. His Pozzo’s brilliant description of night falling is matched by Anderson’s Lucky dancing the hilariously grotesque “Scapegoat’s Agony,” then—at his master’s command to “think, pig!”—spewing out frantic, exhausting fragments of pseudo-philosophy. These two steal the show.
Ken MacDonald’s design is maybe a little too artistic, a post-industrial wasteland of tangled steel fencing and old tires, the tree a rusting metal post topped by a large ball of metallic twine. I’d prefer a minimalist set and spindly tree, and I’d lose the distracting snowflakes and stage smoke.
But don’t miss your chance to see this fine production of a great play. Don’t wait for Godot!