Waiting for Godot
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
Until October 10th
Tuesday – Saturday
£15 – £29.50
With the lines ‘Nobody comes. Nobody goes. It’s awful.’ Beckett threw down the gauntlet to critics with his seminal play Waiting for Godot, first performed in English in 1955, and now kickstarting the Lyceum’s 50th anniversary programme. In a way the above lines are a very succinct summation of the play, except it’s not awful. A stellar cast, with no one performer outclassing any other, bring out the fun and seriousness in Beckett’s sparse masterpiece. Brian Cox’s playful, optimistic and dynamic Vladimir and Bill Paterson’s quiet, lugubrious and restrained Estragon is a perfectly judged pairing and interpretation of the main protagonists. You can tell Didi and Gogo, as they call each other, enjoy their interactions, both swift and measured and both actors superbly embody their characters’ interiority in their movement and posture.
Cox’s use of his body and facial expressions – darting beady eyes, rising and falling height – is particularly good and help to show the impotence he feels in front of John Bett’s authoritarian Pozzo, who really comes across as a nasty piece of class oppressor. Another standout is the impressively static endurance performance of Benny Young as Pozzo’s workhorse Lucky, standing immobile for the best part of half an hour before launching into a superb rendition of Lucky’s ‘nonsense’ speech – surely one of the best examples of stream of consciousness in all literature.
The sparseness of the play is perfectly mirrored by Michael Taylor’s stage design, with its lone windblown tree and snowblind vanishing point effect. The design is cleverly enhanced by Mark Doubleday’s beautifully controlled lighting, which creates a cloudlike layer of shadow that creeps imperceptibly across the barren stage, subtly suggesting the passage of day into the night that Didi longs for in each act.
Lyceum director Mark Thomson and his talented team have pulled off a difficult trick, injecting something new into such a well-known, well-worn, and oft-performed play. The sense of optimism in this version, to ‘go on’ despite all, is very strong and makes the play read less pessimistically than it is sometimes accused of being. The love between Didi and Gogo, exemplified by their hug in the second act, is also very strong and more moving than other versions and demonstrates the importance, and strength, of friendship in the face of adversity. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Nicky Melville