Nash Theatre continues its tradition of fine community theatre in Brisbane, with a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot launching its 2001 season.
This is a well put together piece of theatre, with all the necessities of a good production competent acting, direction and design. However, without some knowledge of the play or of absurdist theatre themes, the long running time could be a drawback for some audiences.
The play, one of the best known works of absurdism, centres around the waiting by the two main characters Vladimir (Steve Martin) and Estragon (Wes Buchanan) for the mysterious Godot. They are not sure why they wait, but they know it will be worthwhile. Day in and day out they wait. Will Godot ever arrive? As the play develops it becomes clear that not only the characters but also the audience are “waiting for Godot”.
Nash Theatre’s production is commendable in its technical aspects. The casting is solid, although the actors are somewhat younger than Beckett imagined the characters to be. However, with a dearth of older male actors in community theatre, this is not unusual, nor is it detrimental to the play. Martin and Buchanan inject the right mix of comedy and tragedy into their characters to give an accurate sense of both the frustration and hope “Didi” and “Gogo” feel while waiting for Godot. Essentially clownish characters, Martin plays more the straight man to Buchanan’s rogue, and both use underlying sexual tension to pass the time.
The other characters, Pozzo and his servant Lucky, are played with skill by Paul Boughen and Justin Palazzo-Orr. For most of his stage time Lucky stands half-asleep holding Pozzo’s bags, and Palazzo-Orr should be commended for his commitment to character. Lucky’s one speech was delivered well, and fulfilled its role as a break from the conversation of Vladimir, Estragon and Pozzo. Paul Boughen as Pozzo also performs well, and makes a suitable transition from a pompous and self-satisfied master in Act 1 to a blind and helpless old man in Act 2. The only hazy thing was his accent Pozzo started off vaguely Italian-sounding, an accent that had disappeared by the play’s close. Michael Schiffke also performs well in the possibly thankless role of the boy messenger.
The set, sparse except for some leaves and a tree, gives a suitable feeling of isolation, especially with an endless blue sky as a backdrop. Director Jennifer Boyle has used the Nash stage efficiently: it still feels empty regardless of how many are on stage.
With a running time of just over two and a half hours (not counting intermission), this production of Waiting for Godot is not for the faint-hearted. With a very long first act, I found I was not only waiting for Godot, but waiting for interval. While many would consider editing Beckett akin to religious sacrilege, there is still a potential problem with its length. If cuts are not an option, director Boyle should ensure her actors maintain a brisk pace to keep the audience from losing interest in the characters.
Overall, Nash Theatre’s production of Waiting for Godot is a testament to the company’s commitment to presenting classic pieces for a modern audience. While Beckett’s style is not to everyone’s taste, those who do enjoy absurdism and less mainstream theatre should enjoy.