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A CurtainUp London Review
Waiting for Godot
It is hard not to like Patrick Stewart's warm and smiling Vladimir with his agitated need to frequently urinate and Ian McKellen's 's foil, the more silent and lugubrious Estragon or Gogo with a Northern accent. But somehow what we are watching is not Waiting for Godot as Beckett intended it. Because we have two star entertainers onstage who are fascinating to watch, gone is that sense of frustration, of inertia, of nothing to do as we wait endlessly for the arrival of the mysterious Godot.
Stephen Brimson Lewis has set Beckett's design for a tree within a dilapidated theatre with the proscenium arch collapsing, a visual in-joke on the historical Haymarket's real falling masonry of 2004 during the production of When Harry Met Sally. So the requisite tree is growing up between the boards of what was once the stage of a disused theatre.
The two tramps give more than a nod to the tradition of British variety music hall acts not just in the after show finale which recreates one of Flanagan and Allen's routines but when Vladimir and Estragen exchange hats, hey tmanaging that tip off the hat and put on another from behind trick. This echoes Chaplin and Buster Keaton silent movie comedy. As Gogo tries his old boots on, he almost manages a tap routine to show his pleasure with his rediscovered footwear.
The first entrance of Pozzo (Simon Callow) and Lucky (Ronald Pickup) is more music hall as Simon Callow, not known for restraint in his acting, is larger than life as the slave master. With a handlebar moustache and painted on ring master eyebrows with fly away waxed extensions, he is seriously over the top and vocally as fruity as an overripe mango. Pozzo's entrance has Didi and Gogo reacting to the intrusion like a pair of nervous schoolgirls.
Ronald Pickup's disappointing Lucky looks like another thin tramp pressed into service by Pozzo. The oppression of this human being doesn't amuse me. Instead I feel hurt to see someone so abused. On the other hand, the two tramps have a caring relationship. Didi strokes Gogo's hand to help him sleep but then ruins the calm by belting out a fortissimo rendition of Brahms' Lullaby. When Pozzo returns in the second act, he is a man confused and humbled and as they all collapse trying to pull him up I still have the image of a pile of unrecognisable bodies with a white gloved hand sticking up like something out of Mickey Mouse.
The jokey exchange of insults between Gogo and Didi culminates in "Crritic!" from Gogo and as he delivers this expletive, Didi dies a mock death at its pejorative force.
Editor's Note: As this Godot is playing in London, another star Curtainup's review here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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