A sublime start to Theatre Groups' busy year of drama.
There are two basic rules that anyone wishing to put on an amateur production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot should follow:
Rule 1: Don’t.
Rule 2: If you’re really going to, give yourselves more than three weeks, crazy people!
Thankfully for you, me and the positive advancement of the world of theatre, director Felicia di Angeli and her powerhouse team over at Theatre Group set fire to the rulebook approximately three weeks ago. And from its ashes has risen a masterpiece.
Full disclosure: Waiting for Godot is my favourite play in the whole entire world ever. Period. I have seen many productions of it over the years, ranging in quality from the seminal (such as the McKellan/Stewart-led production of 2009) to the abysmal (such as… well, let’s not name and shame here!). The last place I expected to see a coherent, funny, moving and, above all, original take on Beckett’s story, that ranks among the best I’ve seen, was in a cramped lecture room on Highfield Campus. But stick a bowler on my head and call me Lucky if that’s not exactly what I got!
Felicia’s directorial vision shines through every second of this production. Reimagining Godot’s motley crew as a bunch of layabout students at a loose end, an extra layer of biting sarcasm is added to much of the dialogue, with great effect. This is Godot with attitude!
The casting is pitch perfect throughout. Andy Banks’ Vladimir is the desperate performer who never was, trying to assert a confidence and significance that no-one buys, not even himself. Estragon, as envisioned by Charlie Randall, is that cantankerous slob of a housemate that we all know and love, as much for their grumblings as in spite of it. The interplay between these two is superb and a tangible, unbreakable friendship can be felt beneath all the sniping.
Anand Sankar gives a gloriously blustering performance as the pompous Pozzo, by turns rasping and bellowing his way through the production. He also has the unenviable task of delivering, to my mind, the greatest speech ever written, a brief four lines on the deathly nature of time. Needless to say, he nailed it! Josh Vaatstra’s Lucky was something of a revelation. Even more impressive than his single speech (a merciless four pages of seemingly uninterrupted gibberish, that was recited as if by a philosophy student desperately trying and failing to recite his notebook by heart) was what he did when he wasn’t talking. Lucky is usually presented as being virtually emotionless, but in Vaatstra’s hands he ran the gamut of emotions, from a hatred towards his master, to impish delight at the pains of Vladimir and Estragon, to a startlingly poignant tenderness towards Pozzo (now blind) in the second half, all through facial expressions alone. Even Robbie Smith as “the boy” managed to bring character to what is essentially a plot device, being stitch-inducingly hilarious on his first appearance and downright sinister on his second.
This is the sort of production that the NSDF (National Student Drama Festival) should be having wet dreams over. Who wants to watch a poorly written, angst-ridden dirge on the potential tedium and monotony of student life when the exact same themes and emotions can be explored through one of the English language’s most classic texts? I went into this production expecting to salute the team’s efforts and give them a solid three stars for the sheer size of their iron-clad balls if nothing else! But I was absolutely blown away by every element of the production. What a start for what promises to be a fantastic year of theatre!
Waiting for Godot has been at Room 1021, Highfield Campus, since 13th October. Its closing show is tonight (15th October), at 7.30. Find out more here.