Enter a bleak and desolate wasteland, filled with piles of shattered rubble, mud, swirling vapour, and the constant sound of dripping water. The only sign of previous life is a dead and twisted tree. Two equally broken, dusty figures emerge from the ruin. It is Vladimir and Estragon and they are waiting...
Samuel Beckett's classic, yet often challenging play has been wonderfully restaged by Simon Dormandy in a highly physical production that emphasizes the political and ethical subtexts intended by Beckett. In spite of its serious philosophical explorations, expect much slapstick and body humour amidst this existentialist struggle where life is portrayed as a meaningless and nonsensical joke, broken at intervals by moments of oppressive brutality and also, equally by ecstatic hope.
Tom Palmer plays a seemingly happy-go-lucky Vladimir and Tom Stourton is a comedic Estragon, elivening and enlightening the play, even at its most seemingly grim moments. Jonathan Oliver shines as the sartorially sharp and sadistically cruel Pozzo, appearing like an East End gangster or Circus Ring Master with his put-upon automaton servant, Lucky, here played with great physical dexterity by Michael Roberts, particularly when he is commanded to dance. Adam Charteris is an enigmatic and mysterious Boy, the only one who has seen the elusive Godot.
This is certainly a humourous and hopeful Godot, in spite of its seemingly bleak, battered setting, the endless, meaningless wait and the occasional absurd cruelty of the characters to each other. It is a fantastic production, not least for its tactile set, designed by internationally acclaimed designer Patrick Kinmonth, which conveys a miasmic, foreboding and bleak landscape, even though it only occupies a small portion of Arcola's theatre space. In spite of its brutality, the hope that is conveyed by the presence of newly-sprouted green leaves dispels the sense of futility of the characters in their endless wait. It is a beam of hope in the face of oppression. A fantastic production, and certainly not one to miss. Highly recommended.
"Yes, let's go."
Waiting for Godot continues at Arcola Theatre until 14 June. Tickets £20 (£16 concessions) can be booked by phoning the Arcola Theatre Box Office at 020 7503 1646 or on-line at the Arcola Theatre website. Londonist saw this production courtesy of a complimentary ticket.