Waiting for Godot
Paul Johnson | 23 Sep 2011 10:57am
Samuel Beckett began writing as a critic, later turning to verse, short stories and novels but in 1953 he entered the world of theatre as a dramatist; his first play was ‘Waiting for Godot’ and it is the latest production from the talented Cranleigh-Guildford based theatre company ‘Lighted Fools.’ I saw their production at the Riverhouse Arts Centre, Walton. It was a brave choice because comparison with the recent West End production might be regarded as inevitable.
Beckett’s play originally attracted mixed reviews that ranged from acclaim through to bewilderment. This is hardly surprising because we never see Godot and we are never told why the characters wait for him. Whatever the explanation for Beckett’s script – is it, at core, religious, political or psychoanalytical (?) – it remains an enigma driven by a powerful narrative that virtually demands a personal reaction; but like custard it cannot be nailed to a wall – the dialogue merely drip feeds and taunts us.
So if there isn’t a traditional plot how do the ‘Lighted Fools’ fare? I thought astonishingly well. In my judgement their success comes from characterisation. Richard Parish as the ‘vagrant’ Estragon twitches, scratches, winces and shuffles suggesting a complete back-story, that isn’t scripted, but which justifies his obsessive irascibility. Unkempt and salivating, at times he wandered aimlessly around, numbed within the bleak stage setting designed by John Tytherleigh. David Webb tackled Vladimir – his Vladimir streaked with arrogance as he dismissed Estragon in a series of domineering put-downs: this time the stage-setting appeared to mirror the bankruptcy of Vladimir’s emotional development. Webb offered a skilled interpretation that was underscored by disingenuous smiles and timed pauses, allowing moments to freeze, perilously, in the air. Also in the cast was Gary Griffiths as Pozzo, Nick Lund as the so unlucky Lucky and Max Usher as The Boy. Here the company once again demonstrated strength when fielding intelligent players in (relatively) smaller roles. Pozzo is the catalyst for reaction from ‘the secret world beyond’ and Griffiths offers a range of uninhibited emotions that began with menace, developed to stupor and disintegrated into the psychotic; as the exploited Lucky, Nick Lund has an evening of silent subjugation and one speech – a difficult role – effectively delivered with a hysterical conviction. The Young Boy (Max Usher) is mostly regarded as ‘conceptual innocence,’ quite a challenge but successfully integrated in a believable manner.
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- : 21/07/2010