Gaiety Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
My review of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett coming up after the jump ...
"We're waiting for Godot."
What is it about this exchange of words, repeated several times (six by my count) with identical delivery that makes us giggle? Perhaps it's because we all know that Mr. Godot is a no-show, that we're all about to be stood up in the most spectacular and groundbreaking way that theatre knows how. Sixty years since it's premiere and still the deity-like entiety has an outstanding appointment with tramps Estragon and Vladamir, whose comical efforts to pass the time, performed here by the witted Gare St Lazare Players, have passed into timelessness, with some spoken lines still prophetic for measure. "We lost our rights?", asks Estragon, to which Vladamir distinctly replies: "We got rid of them". On the eve of a referendum that proposes to radically amend our State constitution, it can strike a note.
Considering its bag of meta-theatrical gags, it's easy to see how this tragicomedy is perhaps the funniest of Beckett's plays. "Charming evening we're having", comments Vladamir (Conor Lovett) at one point. "Unforgettable", Estragon (Gary Lydon) responds. It's daftly effective in a play that has been described as where nothing happens. Twice.
Lovett's humming manner and Lydon's salt dry delivery makes for excellent repartee which, under Judy Hegarty Lovett's direction, retains an artfulness in its slapstick. Careful movement is given to Tadhg Murphy as the silent slave Lucky, whose latent locution is served up in a rich, almost musical delivery that earns rapturous applause.
The play's presentation is neat and its design seems influenced by one of Beckett's cited references: the moonscapes of painter Caspar David Frederich. An enormous image of a yellow moon is illuminated at the back of the stage to bring each act into night, threatening to eclipse the small silhouettes of the actors, adding to the cosmological insignificance of the human state that the play can so powerfully convey.
Unfortunately, that isn't the production's strongest pull. It's a genial Godot but it doesn't expose the nerves of what essentially is a crisis of being meaningless. Lovett does go somewhere more emotional at the end but he doesn't dig far enough. Alternatively, the play's more powerful moment seems to come from ringmaster Pozzo, played here by the strongly voiced Gavan O'Herlihy. "They give birth astride of a grave", he remarks with anguish.
It might be arbitrary to ask Waiting for Godot to dramatically reward us, but when Vladamir tells Godot's young messenger "Tell him that you saw me", you'd like to really wish that he will.
What did everybody else think?