Waiting for Godot – Review by Frances Winston
Smock Alley Theatre 1662, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 8.
Runs from July 29th– August 23rd at 7.30pm nightly
Tickets €16/14 (includes a tour of the theatre)
Tackling one of Beckett’s best loved and most iconic plays is a brave move. There are few theatre aficionados who aren’t familiar with the existential masterpiece and many theatre companies have struggled with this piece in the past. I myself have seen a couple of live productions of it over the years as well as the 2002 version that was filmed for RTE and it is impossible not to have preconceptions when walking into yet another adaptation.
Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to discover that director Patrick Sutton has managed to make this production seem completely fresh and new. The sparse set, featuring just a tree and a rock, works wonderfully in the historic settings of Smock Alley Theatre and really set the scene for the play. However this is a play that very much depends on the performances and the relationship between the actors. Charlie Hughes and Donal Courtney as Vladimir and Estragon, the two hapless individuals waiting on the eponymous Godot, have a fantastic chemistry and bounce off each other brilliantly. Both gleefully play with Beckett’s rich language and they are completely engaged with and reacting to each other throughout. They remind you of an old married couple at times and you really do get a sense that they have been inextricably linked since as long as either of them can remember. They bring a marvellous physicality to their roles and revel in the black humour. I could definitely see them as a comic double act if they so desired.
Ronan Dempsey as Pozzo brings a completely new spin to the character. Quite often there is a temptation to play this role as almost a Lord of the Manor type but his Pozzo is distinctly darker and sleazier than previous incarnations I’ve seen and really gives a new insight into the character. Again he employs wonderful physicality in the role and veers just the right side of hammy. Special mention has to go to Simon Stewart as Lucky though. A hugely physically demanding role it may be short on dialogue but it is big on embodiment. Get it right and it is a theatrical masterpiece. Get it wrong and the whole play falls flat. Thankfully Simon gets it spot on and you will find yourself drawn to his poignant interpretation. When he finally gets to speak the famous monologue it is as if you are hearing it for the first time as he seems to have found new depths in it.
If I was to find one flaw in this production it is the use of the stage space. In trying to use every last inch of the performance area occasional blind spots are created depending on where you are sitting in the audience, which is slightly distracting and does remove you from the world of the play for a moment or two. This is a minor quibble though and easily rectified. This is one of the best productions of this play that I have seen and it is infused with an infectious energy. It is hard to inject new life into something as revered as Godot but Sutton and his team have managed to do just that making for a hugely satisfying theatrical experience.
Categories: Theatre, Theatre Review
Overly kind review, it actually fails in a lot of the aspects mentioned. A waste.
All about opinions Sean, what didn’t you like about it?
I’m inclined to agree. The performances were individually fine, apart from the guy who was a bit too young for and one-note as Pozzo, but they never cohesively gelled as an ensemble. You could tell on opening night, when I saw it, that they weren’t listening to each other but rather waiting on queues. Set was hideous, the space itself is terrible, like a lecture hall in a shoddy university with a black box floor and the dreadful stone backdrop that would have been beautiful if left alone and not meddled with in the “restoration”. The large, obviously not stone, stone they use as a seat wobbled as it was sat on. Just smacked of amateur drama yet the man who introduced the show, who it turns out is not only the shows director but also the venue/schools, spoke as if we were about to witness magic, and seemed complacent just because they were unfunded by the arts council. Left a bad taste for sure.
Thoroughly enjoyed the performance on the last evening of July. It’s a classic…it’s hard to fault the Vaudeville act…straight man funny man…Beckett’s ;love of Laurel and Hardy shines through. Lucky definitely had the hardest part…perhaps the character of Pozzo was a little too strained? Compliments to the chef for a really fresh and palatable meal with wine beautifully served….full marks to the waiting staff. It’s a brilliant innovation to host a pre-theatre meal at the theatre…great entrepreneurship!