Waiting for Godot

Gare St Lazare Players take Beckett’s masterpiece away from more earthly concerns. Does Godot need more gravity?

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 13:22

Waiting For Godot

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Three Stars

Is this the right place? “A country road. A tree. Evening.” There’s the tree, present only as a hanging bough whose branches fall and splay towards the stage like forked lightning. It feels closer to night, which may have something to do with the location chosen for Gare St Lazare Players’ new staging of Beckett’s famous rendezvous. It is an enormous pale circle, pocked and cratered, which precisely mirrors the dominant feature of the night sky. To put it another way, Didi and Gogo are on the moon.

Ferdia Murphy’s design corresponds with a production that itself seems to lack gravity. As Vladimir (or Didi), Conor Lovett applies his nervous intelligence to a role that is all head, while Gary Lydon, gruff and grumpy, plays Estragon (or Gogo), a character defined by appetites and sensation.

Fine actors both, but they demonstrate no great rapport. As they resolve early to hang themselves, your attentions don’t snag so much on the line “Gogo light . . . Didi heavy” (which this casting ignores), but on the concern there should be in Gogo’s consideration, “Didi alone”. Theirs is a prickly affection, but it is affection, like that of a bickering couple, or an exhausted mind for a weary body. Here they already seem to have gone their separate ways.

Beckett, pressed for the meaning of his play, once said: “It’s all symbiosis.” You struggle to see that here. Pozzo, played by the Stentorian Irish-born American actor Gavan O’Herlihy, stresses every beat of every line and both his menace and then frailty crumple, while giving an American voice to the figure of the bully seems both loaded and ill considered.

The discrepancy is enhanced by Tadhg Murphy’s brilliant performance, bowed and scuttling as Pozzo’s slave Lucky. Murphy performs the role faithfully, yet manages to find something distinctly new in it, pairing a precision of movement to the stuttering of words of his quasi-academic oration to give his breakdown an almost digital glitch. Like never before, we seem to share Lucky’s burden and, at a time of buckled certainties and meaningless information, it makes the best case for Godot’s relevance to the here and now.

Murphy’s performance also suggests that the play, wrongly considered static, needs a choreographer and a conductor to realise its motion. As a director long associated with staging Beckett’s prose in Lovett’s restrained solo performances, Judy Hegarty Lovett fares less well with an ensemble. A fleeting moment in which the pair bid adieu to Pozzo and Lucky with the co-ordinated flapping of their hats nicely conveys the play’s sense of absurdity and routine. But while Lydon and Lovett eventually relax with one another, it’s telling that Lovett reverts to his solo persona – hesitant and extemporaneous – when Vladimir is most in need of surety. “In this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come [ . . . ] or for night to fall.” Here though, somewhere in space and far from earthly concerns, neither have much of a chance.

Ends Sunday

Peter Crawley