London Evening Standard
June 8, 2015
A production that revels in Beckett’s spare and surprisingly witty language, says Fiona Mountford
If you like Beckett — or if you’d like to like Beckett — the Barbican is the place to be this month.
For its International Beckett Season, it is inviting companies and performers from around the world to share the Nobel Laureate’s bleak and powerful wail about existence. The centrepiece of the three-week festival is this superlative production from Sydney Theatre Company, starring Hugo Weaving (Elrond from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films).
I’ve concluded that Beckett is an acquired taste and one, no matter how much teachers and university lecturers might protest, best enjoyed by grown adults who have been buffeted around a bit by life. The last time I saw Godot a few years ago, I was impatient, but this time I was enthralled. Beckett’s hard-hitting message, the same as in Happy Days, comes across more forcefully than ever: tomorrow is always worse than yesterday. If you spin this round far enough, it’s quite a comforting philosophy. As ever, we are confronted by Beckett’s barren tree in a barren landscape, around which two ground-to-a-halt tramps, Vladimir (Weaving) and Estragon (Richard Roxburgh) tarry existentially. Zsolt Khell’s set is framed by what looks like the proscenium arch of a clapped-out variety theatre, neatly referencing the play’s roots in vaudeville.
Among the many things that Andrew Upton’s supple, confident production gets right are the silences, making them as compelling and thoughtful as the lines that surround them. Interlopers Pozzo (Philip Quast) and Lucky (Luke Mullins) outstay their welcome as ever, but remind us of one of Beckett’s tenets: we might live in a solitary and futile universe but Vladimir and Estragon possess one very precious thing, friendship.
Until June 13; barbican.org.uk