Image by Laurence Strangio
As Kenneth Tynan wrote of Beckett’s tramps after the London premiere of Waiting for Godot in 1955: “Were we not in the theatre, we should, like them, be clowning and quarreling, aimlessly bickering and aimlessly making up – all, as one of them says, ‘to give the impression that we exist.’ ”
Over half a century after they first appeared on stage, the tramps, Pozzo and Lucky, once again delight in this strongly poisonous drama. Samuel Beckett's Godot has been generously crafted and remains for all ages, an obscure meandering in its psychological, philosophical and aesthetic layers; in its climax without a climax and its beginning without a beginning. Rather it has been compared by the likes of Herbert Blau; "to a piece of jazz music, to which one must listen for whatever one may find in it" – the cries along with the laughter, simultaneously intertwined with significance, perhaps?
With all that in mind, I would be foolish to get myself involved in all the round table political and ideological qualms about its meanings, futility; of Beckett's intensely sufficient subconscious. In its expression, symbolic to absurdity and with no specific hope, we had to wait for "Godot" – and continue to wait.
I will say one thing though about the audiences' outcome: a clear, agreed upon parallel response to what contradicts our Australian way of life. We could not dismiss the treatment of the working class other than something strange and lacking in humanity: but perhaps that was," the divorce between man and life that constitutes the feeling of absurdity". Albert Camus, French philosopher, talked largely about the loss of meaning in life and of shattered dreams: the thick of the play.
The two tramps waiting for Godot near a tree spending idle time, to see the evening out, conversed and compared songs, understood each other's inadequacies through poetry and achieved their haunting struggle through vaudeville. One of them expressed this with, "we're all born mad, some remain so".
Later in the night they were disturbed by passers by Pozzo and his slave Lucky twice in the play. Here we witnessed the contradictions of society, equality and personality and could not help but laugh and cringe at some of the prescribed analogy. Beckett simply said in one interview that the play was about interaction, physical interaction between different organisms, perhaps between masters and slaves, the lonely and the story tellers; all with something to gain.
The out of harmony tramps played by John Flaus and Bruce Kerr, were just enough to keep that ridiculous senseless genius awake. The sitting, the standing, the sleeping, the brown colours and of course carrots and boots revolved in a room where everything was talked about. Languages from English to quietly whispered gibberish were stirred and stammered and screamed and vexed. The Lordly arrogant Pozzo played by Peter Finlay, wore his character through the outside of his costume. His voice trembling the first two rows, at least, and his pantomime silhouette, haunted even the most eager of sadists. Lucky played by Alex Pinder, perfected for us a sorrow and the story became surrounded by his frozen mime. His mute presence fell onto and above and within a declamation, a visual storm dipped in ghastly screeches and hollow screams that moved the room, better still shook our insides. The mystery of Godot and the interaction that the tramps were waiting for was played by Vivian Schmieder – a little boy who would come down some flights of stairs and declare where the play was at; or where our dreaming was at.
If you were lucky enough as I was you would have noticed the eyes of the actors. There were glistening eyes all over the stage, piercing projections. The concentration was immensely alive with compliments and truth and at the same time ragged Chaplin physicality.
You could smell the decay of things old; of things forgotten. Old doors opening and closing, a rope stretched across the floor and the sounds and dim lights of hopelessness.
If you love the theatre, and if you want to know about life and about clowns and about anger and hypocrisy – Godot has to be your path to knowledge. On the other hand if you can see reason and symbolism behind hats and whips, carrots, radishes and turnips, then Godot will purposefully enslave you with smells and texture that you yourself can paint once you leave.
La Mama presents
… waiting for Godot
by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Laurence Strangio
Venue: La Mama Theatre | 205 Faraday Street Carlton
Dates: July 20 – August 7, 2011 Times: Wed 1pm | Thu 11am & 6.30pm | Fri, Sat 8pm | Sun 6.30pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession