Saturday, 29 August 2015

Waiting For Godot - Smock Alley

A country road. A tree.


"Nothing to be done"

Beckett's absurdist masterpiece is resurrected by Smock Alley for a limited run before touring Brazil. With a very sparse set; consisting of a box, two suspended stretches of cloth: one bearing an abstract expressionistic background, and the other bearing the tree. Patrick o' Donnell (Estragon) and Charlie Hughes (Vladimir) are manic, charging around the space showing a great command of emotional extremes: sporadic joy, terror, confusion; emotional switches come at the drop of the hat making for an uneasy watch (paradoxically a good thing).

Best described as a very "in your face" performance, Didi and Gogo have no trepidation about getting right up into people's faces. The madness of this production reaches even higher realms of absurdity with the introduction of Lucky (Simon Stewart) and Pozzo (Ronan Dempsey). Dempsey's Pozzo is an absolute tyrant, completely overpowering the tramps as the cower from him, and Stewart's convulsing , drooling, zombified Lucky is a particularly chilling counterpoint to Pozzo's barking.

Waiting for Godot remains a very poignant play over sixty years since its initial performance, though what this production demonstrates in its emotional jumping about is that any form of meaning or consistency to this poignancy remains elusive. Much like the play's abstract background, the content of the painting may be guessed at by a viewer, but it will ultimately fail as a summary of the painting's content; the best description of it is simply layers of paint which encourage imagination. This method is apparent in the play: every moment, every dialogue exchange operates as a theatrical brushstroke which rings with some allegorical truth, but any attempt to pin down these truths ultimately fails. It is in this elusiveness that this play mirrors our lives. It is a monument to human futility. This is best emphasised in this production by Didi's excitement over the tree showing signs of life; when in actuality, it is only a single leaf on a very unhealthy tree, which is really just a piece of canvas anyway. The play shows our inability to interpret our world, and the distractions we give ourselves and each other as we wait for our own Godot.

But this again is another mere interpretation. Godot remains monolithic. Impossible to pin down but  eternally fascinating.

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