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Thursday 14th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Waiting for Godot

Arts Theatre London WC2


THERE’S something genuinely awesome about seeing Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre, more than six decades after its first English production in this very space.

It’s as if time has never passed — the tramps in bowler hats still wait, the downtrodden are still in chains, suffering still glimmers through the Chaplinesque buffoonery and the world is still unbearably ridiculous.

That this AC Productions interpretation is true to the original would be an understatement. The company dedicates itself to honouring the writer and his intentions and has toured the world with this work for over a decade.

Here once again is the bare tree with its ragged, outstretched, Christlike arms, the arbitrary rock on an otherwise bare stage and the fragments of humanity that stumble into the light, illuminating the air with their banter and filling each moment with its own intrinsic mystery.

It’s a joy for the Beckett diehards, a revelation for newcomers and an existentialist blast for the cynics.

Re-imagining is not the aim but this no museum piece. The play’s uniqueness lies in its famed ability to hold us in the moment while presenting the human condition in a previously unarticulated but palpably true form.

And this the cast do with assured panache as they breathe life into the well-remembered lines and, clownlike, ceaselessly entertain.

Most of all, the characters make us laugh. And why? Because we recognise in them our own selves in our most profound, unstructured moments.

Patrick O’Donnell and Nick Devlin are excellent as the tramps Vladimir and Estragon, with their Irish accents sitting easily with the music of the dialogue and the play’s cultural origins.

Paul Kealyn — a kind of poor man’s Stephen Fry — strikes a wonderful balance between pomposity and pathos as Pozzo and Paul Elliot commands the stage with Lucky’s stream of spontaneous and erudite yet mind-emptying verbal garbage — the latter a more faithful representation of the contents of the average human brain than any crafted, lucid speech.

Director Peter Reid has assembled a devoted team to construct this labour of love and it’s good to see a landmark play like this presented for its own sake and not as a vehicle for a TV star or classic celebrity.

It somehow returns theatre to its roots — travelling players earthed in the ordinary.

And, yes, the play is still a masterpiece.

Runs until September 23, box office:

Mary Conway