Waiting for Godot was once famously described by a critic bamboozled by its seeming emptiness ’as ‘a play where nothing happens, twice.’ But this hugely intelligent and funny production reminds us that the exact opposite is true.
This is a play packed full of base humanity – love, hate, submission, envy, cowardice and humour. In short, everything that defines and shapes us as people.
The story such as it is revolves around two tramps waiting for the mysterious Godot on a lonely road as they bicker and bullshit their way through the interminable hanging around.
It takes real stagecraft to keep this seemingly slight story – with a single tree centre stage as its enduring motif – engaging, so the casting of veterans Jeffrey Kissoon as Vladimir and Patrick Robinson as Estragon is spot on.
They bring all their experience to bear capturing the oft-neglected humour in the text, and whatever deeper meaning actors can find in what is an endless cycle of co-dependency in a twisted friendship that has lasted five decades.
Much has made of this being the first Black cast to perform Godot in the UK, but who cares about that as this is just great actors taking a firm grip of the audience and never letting go. They do use Caribbean accents throughout, which is not only perfect for Beckett’s glorious use of language, but also serves as a reminder this is a work with universal appeal.
At points they are joined by Pozzo who arrives with a slave called Lucky on the end of a long rope who he endlessly abuses. Cornell S John plays Puzzo as a prima donna sociopath before the tables are turned, but Guy Burgess as Lucky delivers a jaw dropping soliloquy in act one rocking you back in your seat as the dribbling, wheezing slave lurches into life.
Lucky’s bondage seems particularly pertinent in this production given the heritage of the cast, adding yet another layer to a work that constantly wrongfoots the audience.
This is Artistic Director Ian Brown’s farewell to the Playhouse and he goes out with his head high held high, delivering a celebratory version of the greatest play of the 20th century. It is easy to get Godot wrong, but when you get it as right as this then the searing humanity, and amused worldview, makes it an essential ticket.
Photos by Richard Hubert Smith.
- Evening performances: Fri 3 February – Saturday 25 February. Tickets: £17- 27 (Concs available). A limited number of free tickets are available to under 26s Monday – Thursday.
- Tickets can be reserved by calling West Yorkshire Playhouse Box Office on 0113 213 7700 or by visiting www.wyp.org.uk