WAITING FOR GODOT
by Samuel Beckett.
Theatre Royal Haymarket SW1Y 4HT.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0845 481 1870.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 January.
Even Godot should see McKellen’s star-turn.
They have their entrances, if not their exits. Estragon crawls (as Vladimir will put it) from the raised rear stage, while Vladimir pops on from an arch at the front stage-side in Sean Mathias’s theatre-oriented production. Vladimir keeps popping back out, generally to empty his ever-indigent bladder, while Estragon sits around nursing his always-painful feet. They show opposite images of age; Roger Rees’s Vladimir could be life and soul of a Saga outing, while Ian McKellen’s Estragon might be ready for nursing care.
But for all his optimistic attempts to make sense of the world, Rees shows Vladimir faces disappointment; a characterisation that leads logically to his image of birth and death intertwined at the play’s temperamental nadir.
McKellen’s Estragon (an intricately-detailed star turn) has no wider perceptions of life than the latest carrot or shoe, thereby avoiding the disappointments Vladimir experiences. Nothing cracks Estragon’s little world; even his friend’s reminders of the fact he keeps forgetting – that they’re waiting for Godot. The delayed-action dismay that works its way into his face whenever the fact re-registers, becomes a momentary joke when he hurtles the line triumphantly at Vladimir.
Their world, here, is a decayed grand theatre. And there’s a lot of the entertainer about this pair; mimicking each other, and others, flashing repartee, playing routines at one another, adding dance-steps at every opportunity
If all this world’s a stage, its people are more than merely players. Constructing an act is their survival-mechanism, and Rees, alone and frustrated near the end (around the time each separately marks-out the line “I can’t go on”), shows how bereft mankind is when the acting’s done. Finally, caught in the moon of a spotlight, the two face each other with no more to play.
Yet their partnership contrasts the isolation of Matthew Kelly’s Pozzo, looking like an inflatable figure from Tintin, and the put-upon Lucky, to whom Ronald Pickup gives ever-mobile features and a servant’s impenetrably complaisant demeanour. While the good companions stand together, master and servant, turned blind and dumb, fall apart. In the performance of life, a one-man show’s not a good idea.
Estragon: Ian McKellen.
Vladimir: Roger Rees.
Pozzo: Matthew Kelly.
Lucky: Ronald Pickup.
Boy: Tom Barker/George Sear/Sam Walton.
Director: Sean Mathias.
Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Associate director: Paul Warwick Griffin.
Associate lighting: Sonic Harrison.
Associate sound: John Owens.