It takes a minor miracle to make a convincing job of acting in a play where nothing really happens for a couple of hours, but somehow it really does work when four of the Miracle Theatre Company’s finest actors perform Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
The play was premiered in Paris 60 years ago and barely provoked a French shrug because it is so ambiguous, there are so many unanswered questions, and Beckett himself refused to throw any light on its meaning. But its content has found significance for the many intellectuals who have set out to find explanations and its reputation has grown over the decades.
Miracle’s director Bill Scott writes in the programme that it is now arguably regarded as the most significant English language play of the 20th century: “There’s no shortage of theories about the meaning, it’s a metaphor for this, a satire on that, a political allegory or an atheist tract……so how to approach it?”
He says the job was half done when he chose his actors, and he’s absolutely right. Steve Jacobs is Estragon and Angus Brown is Vladimir. They have been friends for more than half a century, but have fallen on hard times, and find themselves sitting under a tree – and waiting. They are apparently waiting for Godot, but we never find out who he is, and one thing is for sure, he’s not about to turn up.
Estragon has real trouble trying to remember anything, he’s confused and anxious and he doesn’t like to lose sight of Vladimir, although the two spar verbally and physically, and even consider a suicide pact, but will they talk themselves out of it? The tedium of the wait is interrupted by an unlikely duo, Ben Dyson as Pozzo, a whip-cracking landowner and Ciaran Clarke as Lucky, who is very unluckily saddled with carrying many (sand-filled) bags and is haltered like a horse.
The posturing and prancing Pozzo and the asthmatic and mis-named Lucky, who suddenly voices a tirade of articulate-sounding gibberish, extract some dubious comedy from their bizarre situation.
Bill Scott says the cast approached the text with an empty mind and simply set out to animate it. He recalls that when Peter Hall directed the first London production, he told the actors “I haven’t really the foggiest idea what some of it means……but if we stop and discuss every line we’ll never open.”
Miracle chooses an arid-looking circular platform for its actors, with one skeletal tree, designed by Al and Jude Munden and Sean Donahoe. Is this theatre in the round, or are they supposed to look as if they are on another planet, or does it reflect the way their lives go around in circles?
So many questions, too few answers, such a courageous choice of play and a Miracle that it is so watchable.