by Samuel Beckett.

Arcola Theatre (Arcola 1) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 14 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 May.

A long wait in humorous company.
More than the Cabinet Room shows Eton College’s influence. This show’s director ran Eton’s drama department for 15 years, while the Vladimir and Estragon – also known as comedy duo totally Tom, and some of the younger Old Etonians around – were among its students.

Not that you’d suspect it, looking at them. A rough-cast pair, swapping Samuel Beckett’s bowler hats for cloth caps, they wear clothes that have seen many nights sleeping rough – as Tom Stourton’s Estragon does towards the end of each act here, laid uncomfortably across the heap of rubble covering Peter Kinmonth’s set and half-smothering the single tree.

Also down the social scale, Jonathan Oliver’s Pozzo remains king of the manor, a gang boss whose rare self-criticisms are threatening challenges. No wonder Michael Roberts’ Lucky is so compliant.

This is the second Arcola production this spring from director Simon Dormandy (following Marius von Mayenburg’s Eldorado) to suggest post-conflict destruction.

Any context for Beckett’s abstract existentialism might be thought limiting. Yet Godot has turned up in many conflict zones. And, given the world (there’s a story about that in Beckett’s Endgame), abstraction might be seen as a luxury. Who knows who will, from whatever cause, be sleeping among the rubble next year (for the existential, listen to the dripping water heard behind the action)?

Use of a ready-made double act makes clear comedy will be part of the style, from the moment Tom Palmer’s grizzled Vladimir trots across the stage singing a wordless ditty and disappears.

If some lines appear unfamiliar, Dormandy’s uses Beckett’s published notebooks and changes made in his own productions. True, the wrong character here seems the heavier. And the wrong one is Irish (Vladimir has the most Irish-inflected line). And the production lacks an immediate political situation as context, while some of Beckett’s dialogue, especially near the end, loses its full force. Yet the replacement of Godot’s innocent Boy messenger by a defiant, defensive East European youth intensifies a sense of danger.

Some of the physical action adds more to the evening’s length than its interest, but it’s a production that explores the play’s possibilities.

Boy: Adam Charteris.
Pozzo: Jonathan Oliver.
Vladimir: Tom Palmer.
Lucky: Michael Roberts.
Estragon: Tom Stourton.

Director: Simon Dormandy.
Designer: Patrick Kinmonth.
Lighting: Peter Lundin.
Sound: David Gregory.
Movement: Katie Lowe.
Costume: Annina von Pfuel.
Hair/Make-up: Katie Johnson.
Fight co-ordinator: Dan Carall-Green.
Associate designer: Cara Newman.

2014-05-13 15:10:13

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