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Theatre Review Waiting for Godot

An all-black production of Beckett's modernist classic comes to the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Theatre Review: Waiting for Godot

One of Waiting for Godot’s quirks is its detection of the bleak in the breezy. The first time its protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, contemplate suicide, their discussion is a relaxed one focusing on logistical hitches. They aren’t joking as such, but leave no suspicion that they might attempt it.

Such is the play’s renown that few will see this production knowing nothing about it. But, if you did, I’m not sure you’d realise that the characters weren’t written as Jamaicans. In choosing to read them this way, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Talawa Theatre have allowed character and culture latitude to chime. There is no scar protesting against directorial incision: if it can be called an embellishment at all, it’s a democratic – even organic – one.

Inevitably, Pozzo’s dominion over Lucky presents pitfalls in this setting. But director Ian Brown shrewdly bypasses the temptation to mutilate Beckett’s coy portrayal of feudal control through an incursion of exactness. If Beckett didn’t burden them with backstory, neither should we. Instead, Cornell S John’s Pozzo, also Jamaican, poisons the preceding calm with unconsummated menace. His courtesy speaks to cruelty. As Lucky, Guy Burgess handles one of drama’s least dignified parts with stoic uncouthness, slavering, hesitating and hunching along the runway before liftoff into the blustering, jargon-spattered monologue that, Pozzo assures us, signifies his thinking.

As Estragon might have it, there’s nothing to be undone. This production transposes the text tenderly, embedding a lilt of its own, yet doesn’t quite impart a lingering sense of wonder at its close. Perhaps it’s that, atop its cerebral musings, the crust of Waiting for Godot is about monotony. Therefore it must, almost by definition, test the audience’s patience without relinquishing it. Three quarters do this with poise but the last trespasses slightly. Hence the concluding impression does not do justice to the piece as a whole: but, in staging a play antithetical to the premise of finale, this is an occupational hazard.

You can see Waiting for Godot at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 25th February

Posted on Wednesday 15th February 2012
SW

West Yorkshire Playhouse

Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UP

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