Waiting For Godot (Theatre Royal Newcastle, 23rd April 2009)

Many of my recent posts have commented on how much the performances have referenced theatre. I couldn’t discuss this production of Waiting for Godot without commenting on the metatheatre.

The set is a derelict theatre. We watch the action through two frames, one is the proscenium arch of the Theatre Royal and the other is the run down, tumbling brickwork of the a theatre no longer in use. It could have been bombed during the second world war or it had fallen into disrepair and out of fashion. There is a wonderful moment when Estragon (Mckellan) leaves his boots on stage at the end of the first half and they are present in front of the safety curtain for the whole interval. The tree on stage is barren and resembles the gallows, or the cross, and in the second half it sprouts leaves. Does this signal there is hope after all?

The production was a very funny production, though Beckett is funny of course. Stewart and McKellan work with the lines and there is clearly a rapport between the two characters. There is also a sadness as well. Estragon forgets things and he is starting to rely on Vladimir to remind him.

Waiting for Godot is about the relationship between two men, whose life is about waiting around for something to happen. There’s slapstick and elements of music hall. There’s also that sense of people getting old. The constant repetition of the word ‘nothing’ and the sight of two old men helping each other in the wilderness, really highlighted the echoes of Shakespeare’s King Lear in Beckett’s play. At the same time it is like Laurel and Hardy or Morecombe and Wise. There’s humour is sadness and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Reviews and Previews

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Ian McKellen Newcastle Patrick Stewart Ronald Pickup Samuel Beckett Simon Callow Waiting for Godot York Theatre Royal


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