Waiting For Godot has returned to its spiritual home, the Arts Theatre, London, where it first premiered, under the helm of 24-year-old rising director Peter Hall back in 1955.
Its first outing wasn’t a great success with a lot of the baffled, disappointed, audience walking out.
But it’s fair to say that Samuel Beckett’s enigmatic masterpiece has proved a bit of a sleeper, entrancing and confounding audiences around the world with its absurdity and symbolism.
What probably heightened its appeal to theatre fans is the challenge to make sense of it all. Even Hall, who was its original English language director, admitted that he didn’t understand it.
And it doesn’t help that the avant-garde Beckett enhanced the mystique by refusing to expand on its meaning.
Over the years critics have stumbled and fallen by the wayside after offering political, philosophical, religious and literal interpretations.
I never tire of watching Godot, finding something new in each and every performance.
AC Productions’ charming, life affirming, show, which opened last night at the Arts Theatre, returns the minimalist, perplexing story to Ireland – well, actually it could be anywhere but I do know for sure – as sure as I can be – that most of the cast are Irish.
Listening to the lilting, lyrical accents of Patrick O’Donnell as Estragon and Nick Devlin as the optimistic Vladimir, seems to enhance the warmth and camaraderie between the two men.
“Nothing happens, no-one comes and no-body goes. It’s awful!” exclaims the depressed and weary Estragon.
He’s almost right. For Godot is a play where nothing much happens – and that’s repeated in the second act.
In my local town there is a line of homeless, alcoholic men, their skin weather-beaten and their clothes filthy and threadbare, who spend every day sitting on a wall drinking, when they can afford it.
Each day plays out the same way. They probably, if one were to eavesdrop, have the same conversations, their lives, which surely never began like this, on a perpetual loop.
They sit in the same spot summer and winter, waiting for something that never comes.
I look at them when I pass and think of this play, imagining that perhaps Beckett, too, got his inspiration from a similar group.
Taken on face value we have two knights of the road who are waiting for the arrival of Godot, a man they’ve never met.
They’re standing by a leafless tree and while away the time by engaging in the sort of meaningless banter that only good friends can conjure up.
Their ramblings are interrupted by the arrival of Pozzo (Paul Kealyn), an arrogant, country squire type, who has a largely mute man enslaved on a long leash.
After being subjected to abuse by his owner, Paul Elliot’s Lucky, surely the most unluckiest of men, is asked to ‘think’ and an impressive, long-winded, non-sensical monologue pours forth.
The next day, they’re still waiting, still moaning and keeping themselves entertained with a Laurel and Hardy-type double act. Very little has changed.
What I take from Godot, and what the hell do I know, is a story about futility, hope, optimism and friendship.
We all need to cling to something in our lives otherwise we’re leading a pointless existence. After 50 years together, with the failing Estragon possibly suffering from dementia and Vladimir a prostate problem, the pair can only continue with their lives in the hope that they may have a brighter future.
The arrogant Pozzo, here with a posh English accent, could well be a metaphor for Britain’s enslavement of Ireland, here represented by the downtrodden, but undoubtedly educated and erudite, Lucky.
But who knows? What is certain is that this talented cast, most of who have performed the play for at least nine years, are now so familiar with its rhythms that they almost make sense of it all.
O’Donnell, as the exhausted Estragon, is, like Lucky, dependent for his survival on his friend and carrott- provider, Vladimir. He, in turn, is mutually reliant on his special relationship with his companion.
Sit back and enjoy the banter. It’s a revelatory and spiritually uplifting experience.
Waiting For Godot runs at the Arts Theatre until September 23.
Waiting For Godot returns to the Arts Theatre after more than 60 years in a charming and life-affirming production of Beckett's absurdist masterpiece.