Friday, January 6, 2012

Waiting for Godot

My review of Waiting for Godot in WE this week.
Simon Webb and Anthony F. Ingram star in Waiting for Godot
Simon Webb and Anthony F. Ingram star in Waiting for Godot

Great ‘Godot’ worth the wait

Long, talky and teeming with existentialism, plenty of ink has been spilled in the lengthy debate over Waiting for Godot’s merit. On the surface, it’s easy to understand why so many people find Samuel Beckett’s adaptation of the absurdist French play so polarizing: two men talk over the course of two acts for almost three hours and nothing happens.

Or, at least, it seems like nothing happens. Since its debut in 1953, Godot’s meaning has been analyzed and scrutinized by fevered critics, academics and actors alike. A condemnation of religious devotion? An allegory for the Cold War? An existentialist nightmare? Arguments can and have been made for all. Let’s add to the list then with Blackbird Theatre’s fantastic production, which reminds us that even hundreds of years after the revolution, France’s familiarity with the trials of the 99 per cent may have been a vital — and overlooked — component of Godot’s foundation.

Estragon (the reliably divine Simon Webb) and Vladimir (the masterful Anthony F. Ingram) are tramps who are, literally, waiting for Godot. They bide their time by engaging in a never-ending verbal dance of arguing, philosophizing and contemplation about everything from suicide to the church. But, they’re paralyzed with inaction, depending on the vague promise of something better with Godot’s arrival. Their lives aren’t in their own hands, but in Godot’s.

In both Acts, their solitude is interrupted by the arrival of Pozzo (a delightfully cartoonish William Samples) and Lucky (Adam Henderson, who deserves an award for the physicality of the role alone), a pompous, rich curmudgeon and his faithful, brow-beaten companion/slave, led by a long rope tied around his neck. One gets the sense that Lucky’s spirit has been sucked dry by Pozzo, who takes for granted that his station makes him a person of quality, while Lucky is merely a “pig.” But, he’s held in higher esteem than Gogo, who is forced to ask Lucky for the bones Pozzo discards on the ground after wolfing down chicken and wine in front of the hungry duo.

There’s plenty, though, for the audience to chew on in Blackbird Theatre’s timely production: broad comedic pratfalls and crushing moments of bleak truth work in combination with a stellar cast to make a strong case in favour of Godot as an enduring — and surprisingly relevant — classic. —Andrea Warner

Waiting for Godot runs to Jan. 21 at The Cultch, 8pm. $16 and up from

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