Call me Russ L

Nooo, they be stealin’ mah Beckett!

Posted in Stage by Russ L on 2 March, 2008

I’ve always found Samuel Beckett very, very difficult. I recognise that’s my failing rather than his, but it remains the case. I was intrigued, however, by the possibilities offered by Paul Bamborough’s Waitress For Godot, a play inspired by “Waiting For Godot” (unsurprisingly) and featuring the girlfriends of Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for them while they wait for Godot.

Off we went to The Old Joint Stock Theatre on Friday the 22nd, then. The set-up was interesting – the (low) stage was put up at the side of the room (convincingly made up to look like an ill-treated hotel room, including abandoned Pizza Express boxes with altered logos, and a specially created newspaper abandoned under the bed), with the audience seats arranged on all three sides around it and the front rows right up against the stage. There weren’t enough punters to fill the side seats on this particular night, but the immediate proximity made one really feel right there and right in it (possibly too much so, in a minor way – I was having to do a tennis style back-and-forth neck-swivel to follow the actors’ back-and-forth lines at some points).

Our Valerie (Jo Widdowson) and Oestrogen (Elizabeth Arends) weren’t really direct equivalents of the characters from “Waiting…”. Valerie was not the astute/bright one, for example: although she was seemingly more well-read and literarily aware, Oessy was able to out-think her without too much trouble when responding to platitudes about living in hope. Lucky and Pozzo had no part in this, but The Boy was represented by a motorbike courier bringing messages from Vladimir and Estragon. An identity of sorts (I won’t spoil it) was even ascribed to Godot, which you would think would change things a lot but didn’t, really – it seemed to be added on a bit arbitrarily.

Unsurprisingly, the air of time passing but nothing changing still made up the bulk of the play (the line ‘Nothing to be done’ was less central but was used), and – unsettlingly – things end more-or-less as they start in spite of the discoveries that our protagonists make about Godot. The other main theme in the thing was abuse – Oessy sleeps in a ditch like Estragon, but is raped rather than being beaten and the second act commences with a harrowing shaky-hand-camera video of her finding her way back to the hotel room. Val, frighteningly, doesn’t show the slightest bit of sympathy. I’m really not sure whether this was all meant to stand on its own or it was supposed to be significant in the context of them waiting for the men. If there was a big idea linking the two then I couldn’t tease it out.

Thought-provoking on the whole, though, with excellent performances from the two principles. Worth a look, if it ends up being played again anywhere else.

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3 Responses

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  1. […] Nooo, they be stealin’ mah Beckett! Russ L reviews Paul Bamborough’s Waitress For Godot at the Old Joint Stock Theatre (tags: theatre becket russl waitressforgodot) […]

  2. peter jones said, on 21 June, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Fair review of the theatre, but brief discourse about the play itself. Did it stand alone as a dramatic/comedic entity without prior knowledge of Beckett’s original? Is it any good?

  3. Russ L said, on 22 June, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Alas, Sir, I am not a theatre critic and this is most certainly not a ‘review’.

    In order:

    1) I don’t know. I did have prior knowledge of “Waiting For Godot”, y’see.

    2) The fact that I recommended it, as well as describing it as ‘thought provoking’ and speaking of ‘excellent performances’ suggests that I thought it was good to at least some degree, yes. It’s difficult to see how that could be read otherwise. Beyond that… dunno. What branch of critical theory would you like to see applied?


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