We waited for Godot.

He didn’t arrive, but you know what? That didn’t matter. Estragon and Vladimir kept us so enthralled that time was irrelevant. Words were exchanged, movements made; visitors arrived then departed. I was gripped, even though I couldn’t really tell you now what was said.

I’ve wanted to see this play for a long time, and yet at the same time, I’ve worried. It’s a difficult play, people say. Nothing happens. Two men stand by a tree and have conversations, mostly about waiting. Was I really going to pay money for that?

Of course, it is a classic. It’s revered by writers and playgoers. But what if I didn’t understand it? Would I come away feeling a fool?

It’s a favourite of Rays. He often regrets our failing to get tickets for the Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart version, back in 2013. So last December, when I saw that it was coming to The Everyman theatre, I knew that I’d not only solved my ‘what-Christmas-gift-do-I-give-to-the-man-who-has-everything?’ question, in the process, I’d found the prompt I needed to see the play for myself.

‘Tweedy’ as Estragon & Jeremy Stockwell as Vladimir

This week, as the evening got closer, I was having doubts. The lead actors were a professional clown and a vaudevillian actor, this version could be terrible.

There’d been a serendipitously appropriate discussion about Becket on the radio a week or so ago, and the academic panel had explained how important clowns were to the playwright, so I got that clowning could fit. But, that didn’t mean a clown could act, did it?

Well, in this case, yes. From the moment the curtain was raised, as Estragon struggled to remove his boot, I forgot he’d ever had anything to do with face-paint, or colourful clothes. He was a man in search of boots that would fit, and I was hooked.

He was waiting for Godot. He had no more idea than I had, of why he was waiting for Godot. I knew that he wasn’t going to arrive. Maybe Estragon did, too. I waited with him.

Time passed. I laughed, I wondered, I smiled. I doubted the rightness of my responses. I forgot that I was watching men act, even though the stage was so obviously artificial, with its washed-out blue sky, bare rocks and man-made tree.

It was as if I was in a dream, the way I accepted everything. And yet, I never stopped thinking, and asking questions. Maybe I never will. I hope not.

Photo by Antony Thompson: Mark Ropper as Pozo, Tweedy as Estragon, Murray Andrews as Lucky, Jeremy Stockwell as Vladimir.

23 thoughts on “We waited for Godot.

  1. I saw this for the first (and only) time as a student in the 60s, really enjoying its inconsequentiality as well as profundity, but despite having vowed to revisit it haven’t as yet. Yet it definitely made a strong impression as I can still picture the actors and the staging and the business now.

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    • And yet, when I finished watching it I felt reassured. If you’d suggested before I went that this was the gist of it, I’d have anticipated coming away under a cloud. Amazing.

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  2. Actually seen it twice…the second time I was hoping I “got” it. I didn’t yet I enjoyed it both times, it’s nothingnesses and somethings. I guess we can wait around for ‘something’ to happen yet the little things in life are always there. DOn’t know, just enjoyed it for what it was.

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    • I was glad I heard the radio 4 programme before i went, because the panel of academics all said it wasn’t possible to pin down a definite meaning. Like you, I think I came away just having enjoyed it for what it was.

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  3. It is so worth seeing. I saw it (in French) 50 years ago and it is still with me. Waiting for Godot is part of the lexicon that when invoked says so much to any who understand. I wish I could see it again for the first time.

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    • My French is far too ropey to cope with the play in its original language, but I know what you mean about wishing to see it again for the first time. That would be ideal.

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  4. Thanks for the review, Cath. It’s wonderfully absorbing play as you discovered. And yeah, were the responses appropriate? Who cares? Like a painting, your just react. Wish I could see it again sometime. Maybe it will come to Ireland.

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    • Glad you enjoyed my take on it, Lynda. I’m surprised by how rarely the play is put on now. I’m quite intrigued now to see how another company would interpret it.

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