Waiting for Godot @ Royal Lyceum Theatre

Druid's take on Samuel Beckett’s 1953 breakthrough play and existential masterpiece Waiting for Godot is a cruel and comic delight

Review by Jamie Dunn | 07 Aug 2018
  • Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot is so iconic, and with a plot so fat-free, that practically everyone knows the gist: two tramps wait by a tree for the enigmatic title character. That’s it! Yet so mysterious is this deceptively simple play – its subtext simultaneously suggestive and inscrutable – that theatre-makers have been returning to it for over six decades. Theatre scholars agree it’s a play about heady themes – the meaning of life, the concept of time, the cruelty of existence – but what they often forget to mention is it’s a laugh riot too.

You’ll find fewer funnier interpretations than this clear-eyed staging by Galway company Druid. As played by Marty Rea – tall and elegant in a long overcoat – and Aaron Monaghan – short and shouty – Beckett’s forever waylaid tramps Gogo and Didi are at their most Laurel and Hardyesque. Their dynamic poses as they glance into the horizon looking for the elusive Godot are hilariously mock-heroic while the removal of Gogo’s disgusting boots from his suppurative feet is an acrobatic delight. And that’s not to mention a gravity-defying lean forward by Monaghan that would win him a spot in Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video. Even without Beckett’s wry banter, where puns and prostate jokes commingle with ruminations on suicide and unlikely New Testament yarns, we’d be laughing at their slapstick antics.

It’s not all skits and giggles, though. In Rory Nolan we have a most sinister Pozzo, the supercilious master of the ironically named Lucky (Garrett Lombard), whom Pozzo drags through the play’s barren wasteland by a hangman's noose. Watching their perverse dynamic, it’s hard not to think of a modern-day UK, where the more cruelly the have-nots are treated by the ruling classes, the more resigned to their lot they become. The stage design, too, is a cruel masterwork, with a sky of exposed concrete and ground of parched clay, all enclosed in a luminous frame that suggests a giant diorama, with Gogo and Didi some god(ot)’s playthings – which of course they are.

Waiting for Godot, The Lyceum, 3-12 Aug, £17-£35

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