Writer: Samuel Beckett
Director: Patrick Sutton
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Nestled under a bare tree, nowhere in particular, are two of Samuel Beckett’s most famous characters. Vladimir (Didi), played by Charlie Hughes, and Estragon (Gogo), played by Donal Courtney, are waiting for Godot. As the pair bicker, pontificate, and contemplate suicide, this seemingly endless cycle is interrupted by Pozzo and Lucky, a macabre and disturbing master/servant duo. Pozzo, played by Ronan Dempsey, and Lucky, played by Simon Stewart, canter around the stage, much to the bafflement of Didi and Gogo. The pair serve as a distraction, marking the passage of time for the injured pair. As Didi and Gogo continue to wait, time seems to slow down, and there is a distinct sense that all of this has happened before.
Waiting for Godot is a play of suspense and distraction. The action onstage is frustratingly tedious, the script is purely nonsensical, but that is just how it should be and the end result is wonderful. There is no Beckettian re-imagining here, what is present is a solid and dependable representation of the play. Taking on Beckett’s most famous play is no easy feat and it is difficult to balance the demands of the Beckettian estate with a desire to make the production an individual endeavour. Smock Alley Theatre makes the most of this opportunity through their characters. Sutton’s direction is clear here and this distinctly Irish performance is what marks this production as their own.
Hughes and Courtney do Beckett’s script justice. The pair’s onstage relationship is consistently good and their attention to detail brings out the latent comedy in this performance. Their timing is flawless and every movement, although closely calculated, appears naturalistic, in an otherwise absurd frame. Stewart’s Lucky is the highlight of the evening. His portrayal of Lucky is unsettling and highly energetic. Stewart goes from stagnant to vigorous in a matter of seconds, never missing a beat. He draws empathy, not only from Didi and Gogo (albeit for a very short time!), but also from the audience, as they become visibly unsettled by his appearance. One flaw of the production was Dempsey’s Pozzo. Dempsey performed well, and delivered a sound performance but his characterisation of Pozzo was slightly caricaturish.
The set and lighting, designed by Colm McNally, makes the most of the unique Smock Alley stage. The ancient, exposed brick wall marks a pleasant removal from the usual background of a night sky. The coldness of this natural feature of the theatre works well with the set, a single treeand a boulder,and enhances the overwhelming feeling of isolation. McNally uses simple and unintrustive lighting to highlight the slow passage of time.
For over two hours nothing happens and as the ending looms the audience is as anxious as the characters. Will Godot arrive and how long will they have to wait? This is a performance that allows the audience to hone in on the intricacies of Beckett’s language and leaves them with a lingering curiosity. With more questions asked than answered, Smock Alley Theatre’s Waiting for Godot is a true success.
Photoby Jim Byrne. Runs until August 23rd