Monday, May 28, 2018

Humor in the Silence

Waiting for Godot 
by Samuel Beckett

“We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don't protest, we are bored to death, there's no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste. Come, let's get to work! (He advances towards the heap, stops in his stride.) In an instant all will vanish and we'll be alone more, in the midst of nothingness!”   ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot is set nowhere, but in a place that is somewhere we know not.  The set is spare: a tree, a rock, the backdrop and the foreground. At the end of each act night falls and a full moon appears. The setting is in reality the stage. It is a stage that characters inhabit, walk on and off, look to the distance where they see no more than the audience which is nothing.  Estragon and Vladimir spend two days waiting, waiting for Godot to come. He does not come but instead sends a small boy with a message that Mr. Godot will surely come tomorrow. In each act there is an interlude with a visit by two itinerants, Lucky and his boss Pozzo.

The production of Waiting for Godot by the Druid Theatre Company of Ireland that I saw last week was a revelation.  Having read and studied the play I knew what words to expect, but the actors, through their movement and reactions, brought out the humor that is one aspect of the essence of this great drama.  When they used the silences to bracket their words and demonstrated a camaraderie that was visceral and transcendent made this an exceptional afternoon of theater.

There is deep meaning in the happening of the words and actions of this play. It views thinking as a strange, ludicrous activity; the actors pass the time in activity - dancing, talking or saying nothing at all, exchanging hats and meditating on the nature of their boots.  The beauty and feeling that the actors display is difficult to put into words.  You may read the play as I have before and will likely again, but to see it on the stage provides a perspective that cannot be achieved by reading.  My afternoon was one where I could delight in the beauty of the magic of theater thanks to a handful of actors and one Samuel Beckett.


Brian Joseph said...

I would love to see this play live. Sometimes even a work that we know well opens up when we see it performed. I have found that true with Shakespeare and other play writes.

James said...

Yes, it is surely true for Beckett that the live performance is necessary for the play to blossom into the creation that he must have imagined. This production by an Irish company was able to do just that.

RT said...

Ah, you send me back in time .... my 1972 thesis production .... a nice letter I received from Beckett .... my lifelong fascination with play and playwright .... oh, I wish I could rejoin Didi and Gogo .....

James said...

It was the pleasure of seeing Beckett in performance that raised my fascination and respect for this great author.