Waiting For Godot is one of those plays my father attempted to get through my thick skull when I was young. I remember sitting through a version of it as part of a Beckett television season sometime in the mid-80s and being bored stiff – pretty much how I viewed Hamlet last year.
So, being honest, it was my wife’s excitement and the rather excellent cast which drove me to obtain tickets to see the West End staging of the play last weekend. Of course we had already seen Patrick Stewart in Hamlet (here playing Didi), but he was joined by Ian McKellern (as Gogo), Simon Callow (as Pozzo) and Ronald Pickup (as Lucky).
(Sidenote: Godot itself has been discussed to death elsewhere by people much more qualified than I to give reasoned opinion, so please don’t expect philosophical discourse!)
First off, Ian McKellern was wonderful. I realise Beckett wrote some quite precise stage direction but it was carried off with perfect comic timing. His voice and mannerisms where absolutely spot on. There is little more I can say about that, but I am exceptionally glad I have now seen him on stage.
Simon Callow as Pozzo played, er, Simon Callow. Or maybe Pozzo played Simon Callow playing Pozzo. Or… I don’t know – the role was so suited that it could be any variant really, a role that commanded the bluster for which Callow is so famed.
Lucky’s single soliliquy I suspect is quite difficult to perform (not to say I wouldn’t mind a go) but Ron Pickup did it bang on as well.
Then Patrick Stewart – I’ve not seen him do any comic acting (aside from the odd comedy episode on Star Trek but I feel that doesn’t really count). It was just the right mix of comedy and tragedy in the part although maybe on reflection I felt he hammed it a little at the end of the first half. Nothing to be done.
To be honest, I’m now tempted to dig out the 1977 version (which may have been the one I saw back in the mid-80s on television) and view it with fresh eyes.
Anyway, I suspect the run is sold out now but you should really go and catch it – try and sit fairly centrally in the theatre though as quite a lot of ‘the action’ takes place towards the wings (we were sat at the side of the Royal Circle which meant some rubber-necking and craning was inevitable).