November 3, 2013
IN a case of life imitating art, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving spent the first seven days of rehearsal not only wait-ing for Godot but waiting fordirector Tamas Ascher.
As in Beckett’s play, he never appeared. Hungarian Ascher couldn’t make the trip to Australia because of a back injury so Andrew Upton is now directing the highly anticipated Sydney Theatre Company production in which Roxburgh plays Estragon to Weaving’s Vladimir.
“For the first week it was ‘waiting for Tamas’ so the overlaps between rehearsals and the play (meant) there were all these hilarious mom-ents,” Roxburgh says.
“I wonder if it’s ever happened before, the director not turning up.”
It was while Ascher was directing Roxburgh and Weaving in STC’s acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya that the idea of doing Godot was born.
“We were rehearsing the scene between Astrov (Weaving) and Vanya (Roxburgh) when Vanya has disgraced himself with the pistol and he’s whingeing about his life. It’s one of those unfortunately funny moments. We shared a cigarette as we sat there moping and Tamas just burst out laughing and said, ‘It’s Estragon and Vladimir’,” Roxburgh recalls.
“That’s where the whole idea came from so it’s strange to do it without Tamas.”
Roxburgh has never seen Beckett’s land-mark, absurdist play but is thrilled to be in it, particularly with Weaving.
“It’s obviously one of those plays that you know and I’d always hoped I would find the right environment to do it in and so when it cropped up it was perfect. Hugo and I have such a great chemistry and (have) such great fun together,” he says.
Although the play is bleak and steeped in what Roxburgh describes as “a kind of apocalyptic sadness”, it is also very funny. “(Beckett) was pulling a lot from the energy and the dynamism of vaudeville, from the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. All of that energy is in the play as well,” Roxburgh says.
Next year, Roxburgh will play Cyrano de Bergerac for the STC. He also returns to our television screens as brilliant but self-destructive barrister Cleaver Greene in the ABC’s award-winning Rake, but says the third series will be the last.
“We were always deter-mined to leave it with grace and dignity and leave people wanting more rather than less and it got to a point where we were having to massage story lines because they were too similar to ones we had already done,” he says.
“And also I suppose I want to see what else I’ve got.
“Having said that, I’m going to miss Cleaver terribly because I absolutely love that character. There’s so much of my clown in Cleaver.”
Waiting for Godot, Sydney Theatre, November 12 – December 21. Bookings: