I hadn’t heard of Waiting for Godot when this caught my eye back in January, if it wasn’t for the superstar cast then I would probably have missed out competely on this 57 year old play, which would definatly have been my loss.
So on Thursday morning, we headed off to the station to nip up to Newcastle for the matinee, knowing that everybody else was at work whilst we were off travelling added to a feeling that we were playing truant.
I’ve only been past Newcastle before so it was also an excuse to nose around the place a bit. Many cities aren’t at their finest near the railway station, but this was an interesting exception. The castle keep, built on top of the castle that gave the city its name, is a stone’s throw from the railway in anarea full of three dimensional nooks and crannies, just my type of architecture. The castle had some very interesting repairs from the mid 1970s, which illustrates what it could have looked like in its prime.
The river has developed quite a collection of bridges over the years, all of which need to permit Navigation so some rotate along one axis or another to get out of the way whilst others are so tall and lofty they’ve got permanent signs advertising the Samaritans. The cherry and magnolia trees were in full blossom which set off the buildings nicely.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the play, I did a bit of backround reading, mostly on Wikipedia but I hoped that it would be an instructive experience in an undefined Cultural sort of way. I’d picked up that it was a comedy and that it had a sterotype of ‘nothing really happens’, but that’s about it.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
The play itself was very enjoyable from the moment Sir Ian McKellen‘s Estragon made his entrance climbing over a wall to when he and Patrick Stewart’s Vladimir danced off the stage after their second curtain call.
I know it’s very much Not The Done Thing to talk about the cast rather than the characters, but I’m far from well versed in theatre etiquette and, well, seeing those two perform live on stage was highly noteworthy for me. We’ve all seen them perform on the small and big screens, but seeing them perform ‘proper theatre’ was very impressive, especially Gogo’s authenticate Lancashire accent and Didi’s perfect comic timing.
I did speak to a few people who’ve read or even studied the play and perhaps seen it performed and they all agreed that it was a very complicated work that can be quite impenetrable and why would I go to another city to go see it? For me, this performance was none of that. It was laugh out loud funny in places, with strong use of my favourite comedy elements, repetition (Vladimir looking into his hat, or Estragon and his shoes, or The Thing With The Hats) as well as some deadpan but absurd props, such as a pair of old boots holding a spotlight centre stage. The repetitive comedy seemed to degenerate towards the end towards “The same thing we do every night Pinky, Waiting for Godot”.
Memorising lines is something I’ve never worked out how to do, I suspect it would be quite fun to be able to reel off Lucky’s stream of conciousness on demand, (not that anybody would ever demand it of course, but I’d find it amusing to simply be able to do it).
The day job doesn’t seem to be under much threat from my attempts at being a theatre critic, so I’ll close it with this:
I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for the cast, but their skill and experience made a properly grown-up play really come alive for me. I’m glad I went and highly recommend that if you can snatch up tickets at this late stage, everybody else go too.