I went to see Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot this weekend. The current production in London is thought-provoking and an incredibly captivating watch.
For those of you unfamiliar with the play it is about two men, Estragon and Vladimir who are literally waiting for someone/something called Godot. It never becomes completely clear who (or perhaps what) this mysterious ‘Godot’ is. There are many interpretations of the play, some more ridiculous than others, and part of the intrigue in watching the play is to try and decide what your personal interpretation is.
Don’t go to this play after a really exhausting day at work however, as this is not a play where you can sit back and unwind. You need to have enough energy so that you can concentrate, and through being able to fully concentrate on what is going on, how the characters are interacting, and what exactly they are saying, the main charm of this play is to become totally absorbed in what it is about and spend hours afterwards discussing it or thinking about its interpretation.
The highlights of this particular production of Waiting for Godot are, of course, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. In fact, I would almost advise not to see the play without such strong leads. McKellen and Stewart added such charm, grace and energy to the production that I can’t quite imagine having enjoyed it even half as much without them.
With such a small cast (five people in total) and with the two leads being on stage pretty much the entire time, I can only imagine that with weak leads this play could be incredibly frustrating.
I, however, obviously did not encounter this problem. McKellen in particular was spellbinding. He became Estragon. From the way he moved to the way he spoke to the way he exuded the right delicacy for such a character, you believed you were watching a real person, struggling through life; you were almost rudely watching another person without them being aware of it. He was funny yet tragic, helpless yet strong.
Stewart was also totally absorbed into the character of Vladimir. He kept the energy levels of the play at a lofty height and his timing was consistently faultless. Throughout the play he steadily drew the audience into his character. I admired Vladimir yet felt sympathy for him by the end of the play. He had the audience on his side.
Apart from all of this, Theatre Royal Haymarket is a charming theatre. It is just the right size so that it feels very grand and ornate but also not so big that it no longer feels intimate. So if architecture is more your thing than plays then I would still highly recommend going.
Overall, this is a brilliant production and as long as you have the energy for it then I would not miss out on seeing Waiting for Godot under this direction and with this outstanding cast.