November 26, 2013
IT is remarkable, given the limitations placed on productions of Godot by Beckett’s estate, that they can all be so different in visual appearance, directorial style, cultural interpretation and performance nuances.
The STC’s current offering, for example, presents a dramatic contrast to the British Theatre Royal’s gently melancholic production in Sydney in 2009 featuring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Simon Callow.
And 10 years ago, also in Sydney, Max Cullen and John Gaden, under the direction of Neil Armfield, presented a vaudevillian Godot that reminded this reviewer of Roy Rene, aka Mo McCackie, whose theatrical popularity rested on his risqué slapstick humour and expressive features.
The quartet of actors in the STC production bring their own Australian take to Beckett’s ground-breaking play about the futility of life.
Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh give us an affectionate if grumpy duo much like Ruth Cracknell and Gary McDonald in the television series “Mother and Son”.
Weaving’s insistently mischievous Vladimir makes a wonderful foil to Roxburgh’s testy recalcitrant Estragon. Although Roxburgh holds his own in the verbal duelling between the two, Weaving’s Vladimir is the more powerfully and authentically portrayed and grounds their interactions.
This production was to have been directed by Hungarian Tamas Ascher, whose health problems kept him earthbound in Budapest. His associate Anya Lengyel stepped up to assist Andrew Upton, as did Ascher by phone, to mould the play to Ascher’s conception. We will never know whether this was achieved, but judging by the audience reaction, the interpretation was wildly successful.
Although Beckett’s stage directions require “A country road. A tree. Evening.”, a desolate industrial backdrop dominates the rear of the stage. The direction took into account the cavernous space of this setting, so suggestive of wide open Australian landscapes, and choreographed the two old tramps to fill the void with their antics.
The ample proscenium also allowed for a terrific sight gag. When poor oppressed Lucky staggers onto the stage laden with luggage, he is tethered by a very long rope that stretches across the stage and into the wings to an unknown handler. We wait, intensely curious as the rope lengthens, to see who has enslaved the unlucky Lucky.
Pozzo is portrayed by the portly Philip Quast as a colonial master, while the pencil thin Luke Mullins is silently expressive except for his long, potentially interminable monologue which commences after he is given the command to “think” and ceases when his hat is removed from his head.
If I have any quibble with this production, it is that there were a few too many unnecessarily long pauses which slowed down the dialogue and even made me wonder if a line had been forgotten.
Despite this, Andrew Upton and his creative team at the STC have produced a very fine, definitively Australian interpretation of this classic – one which will not only satisfy its audiences but also provide a fitting ending to the 2013 season.
Don’t wait any longer to see “Waiting for Godot”!
PS A suggestion for the STC. Isn’t it about time the wonderful productions of the STC were made available on DVD for the world to see and appreciate.