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.
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.