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Waiting for Godot

New Zealand Herald Review 7 October 2002


Waiting For Godot at the Maidment Theatre

Entering the Auckland Theatre production of Waiting for Godot is like walking inside a painting by Grahame Sydney--one executed in a fit of utter gloominess.

John Parker's wonderfully disturbing set, like Sydney's paintings, has skies stretching to nowhere and a landscape of vast, aching emptiness.

Parker has put up a telephone pole, made out of a dead tree. The landscape has been inhabited at some time--although God only knows what people did in such a place. A slippery, sloping highway without beginning or end, a sort of road to hell, runs the length of the stage.

Vladimir (Raymond Hawthorne) and Estragon (Michael Hurst), two tramps by the roadside, may have been here forever - waiting, of course, for Mr Godot. They have been waiting a long time; Waiting For Godot is a long play.

It is a trick of the play that you are aware of time passing, slowly; that you are as aware as Vladimir and Estragon that you are going to have to fill in time to get through this time.

Godot's audience are as much puppets in this puppet play as the actors are.

Director Colin McColl, as puppet master, manipulates the strings mercilessly and with gleeful skill. Such is the frustrating brilliance of Godot. It is a play which plays like one of those old cinema reels which run back-to-back, endlessly.

Somewhere in the world, at any given moment, you could walk into a theatre and there they would be: Vladimir and Estragon, filling in time--as you are doing by merely being there.



Hawthorne and Hurst play the tramps like an old married couple--bickering, tied together by a history neither can remember clearly.

Vladimir fusses over Estragon's boots as a wife might over the state of her husband's slippers. Hawthorne turns in an assured performance: he is the grand but shabby scolding duchess of the tramp world.

Hurst's Estragon is the petulant, face-pulling clown. He seems uncertain of the tone of his character, whose accent lurches from broad New Zild to not-so-toney echoes of plummy Vladimir.

The slapstick, of which there is plenty, is competent but not inspired. Here, where the strings should be invisible, you notice them being pulled.

Time is broken up by the arrival of the whip-yielding Pozzo (Paul Barrett) and the luckless Lucky, a scab-covered, shaking, vicious beast played to ghastly effect by Jon Brazier.

We are as excited as the tramps to see them appear on the highway. Not Godot, but by this time who cares?

They are an entertainment from your worst nightmare. As the bully boy, bowler-wearing owner of the slave he calls Pig and Hog, Barrett takes over the stage like a caricature of a majestically nasty ringmaster.

Pozzo and Lucky are yoked together as inextricably and as hopelessly as the tramps. The imagery created by McColl ensures they'll be lurching along the road inside your mind until Godot comes.

There is no end to any of this. Ever. That Samuel Beckett must have been a right bastard, and a genius.

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