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The Theatreguide.London Review

Waiting For Godot
Arts Theatre   Autumn 2017

This Irish production of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece has been touring on-and-off since 2005. One cast member has been with it from the start and two others for nine and five years respectively. 

So they know the play, and their characters, pretty well by now, and if a slight hint of the mechanical occasionally slips into their performances, on the whole this is a clear, straight-forward and uncluttered Godot. 

Director Peter Reid has wisely chosen not to gild the lily or impose any interpretation upon the play, but rather to stay out of Beckett's way as much as possible, and to let the author's vision dominate. 

The result may not have much to offer Godot veterans, but I would happily send newcomers, or those who know the play only from the classroom, to as accessible an introduction to Beckett as they're likely to find anywhere. 

There are among us those (such as I) who remember when this play first appeared and seemed all-but-unintelligible. And now it is a set text, and schoolkids write more insightful essays on it than most critics did in the 1950s. 

The world has caught up to Beckett, and we (all but a few academics) know better than to try to explain every detail in the text, and allow ourselves to respond instinctively to its vision. 

In a universe that seems empty of meaning or even actively hostile, two men place all their hopes in a shadowy figure who will save and protect him, barely sensing what Beckett makes us see that he's never going to show up and, much more significantly, that through their love for each other and their sense of responsibility they have already created for themselves all they could hope for Godot to provide. 

There are, of course, other things going on in the play as well, and I'll just point to the title for two of them. 

In the original French it is While Waiting For Godot, Beckett's hint that it is what's happening while nothing is happening that matters, and you can just knock two letters off the name of the awaited one (who, we're told has a white beard and is associated with lambs and shepherds) to open a whole range of implications. 

As with everything else in the play, director Paul Reid makes sure we catch all of this without over-selling any of it. Nick Devlin (Vladimir) and Patrick O'Donnell (Estragon) find all the warmth in the two men, much of the humour, and without underlining it too obviously all the inherent strength and capacity for survival. 

Paul Kealyn's Pozzo wanders a little too aimlessly between jolly country squire and ham actor, and Paul Elliot generously resists trying to steal the spotlight, even in his one big scene, as Lucky. 

This is not a Waiting For Godot for the ages. But it is an excellent choice for anyone's first Waiting For Godot.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Waiting For Godot - Arts Theatre 2017

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