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Waiting for Godot
New Zealand Listener Review 19 October 2002




WAITING FOR GODOT, by Samuel Beckett; directed by Colin McColl, ATC, Maidment (to November 2).

On a brilliantly evocative John Parker set, two vagrants, Estragon (Michael Hurst) and Vladimir (Raymond Hawthorne), wait beside a tree for Godot.  He never comes.  Pozzo, a rich man, reining his slave Lucky with a noose, arrives, spends some time and moves on.  A boy comes and says that Godot isn't coming today, but will tomorrow.  Act two repeats the action of Act one, except Pozzo is blind and Lucky is dumb.

What does it all mean?  Waiting for Godot draws on the existential ideas of Camus and Sartre--how do we live in the days that we have?  Like an old married couple, moment by moment, Didi (Vladimir) and Gogo (Estragon) are concerned with getting through, filling in the time, enduring the boring bits, coping with the domestic irritations of feet, food, hats, hoping for salvation, indulging in little acts of petty cruelty and fearing loneliness, emptiness and pointlessness.  This is life as it really is, not as we pretend it to be.  Beckett drags us to the brink and insists that we take an unflinching look into the abyss.

There is a danger of this play being too abstracted, the meaninglessness that it explores on stage spilling over into the auditorium and the experience becoming a meaningless one for the audience.  Or going to the other extreme of pushing the absurd so that it becomes a comic romp.  Colin McColl's production treads a fine line and Hurst and Hawthorne create a convincing reality.  Hawthorne's Didi is variously imperious, petulant, cantankerously world-weary as he clings to continuity and certainty and stricken by a desperate panic when he loses them.  Hurst is a cleverly comic but very human Gogo, whose lack of memory condemns him to living utterly in the present, giving him a childlike dependence while robbing him of volition.  Paul Barrett is a potent Pozzo, Jon Brazier a haggard and lost Lucky and newcomer Jake Howie gives a creditable performance as the Boy.

It is not an emotionally engaging play but an intellectually challenging one.  You need to be tough-minded.  Being there is hard work, no doubt about that, but it is worth the effort.

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