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Two men are thinking about hanging themselves in order to get an erection. There’s a tree, but there’s not even a piece of decent rope. It doesn’t matter because the men just want to pass the time while waiting. In this space of endless waiting, even a pair of decent boots become a source of companionship. Bristolian Tobacco Factory Theatres’ interpretation of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett hits the boards of The Dukes.
Originally written in French, presented and loved in Paris in 1953 and Britain two years later, it is difficult to say what Godot is about. “Two hungry, battered drifters wait by a dead tree. They might have been here yesterday. And they might well come back tomorrow. Unless Mr Godot arrives first. Which he might. If they’re lucky. Which they don’t tend to be” says Tobacco Factory Theatres’ suitably vague leaflet. David Fielder (Vladimir) describes how you can come out of the play having no idea what was going on. But if you’ve enjoyed yourself, then “it’s alright”. It’s all about individual perception and emotions.
The Round is perfect for creating this perception. It gives a feeling of intimacy and equality as there’s the same number of seats on every side. Janet Bird, the designer, decided on minimalistic scenography (which was Beckett’s aim) but with an industrial vision. It looks like a construction site with Vladimir and Estragon dumped there, they are just “the expression they exist”. The tree is made from thin pipes. Mark Rosenblatt, the director, argues the theme of perception is significant as what the characters see is not necessarily what we see. Unfortunately, the result is genuinely unconvincing. The set could make some sense if it linked with the high-visibility vest that Didi is wearing under his coat. But the connections between set and costume end here, the various elements of the production clash rather than complement each other.
The costumes, however, would probably be approved by Beckett. Both Estragon and Didi look like tramps, although Estragon (Colin Connor) wears more modern clothes. But the best dressed is Pozzo. Not because he’s the richest one out of the four characters, but because his clothes ideally establish his persona, which perfectly assists John Stahl in his spectacular creation of Pozzo. His outfit, behaviour and The Round itself build the feeling of the circus, especially during Lucky’s monologue (by the astonishing Chris Bianchi), when the stage lighting makes the sense of chaos even stronger.
After the UK premiere in 1955, it was said that “Waiting for Godot” changed the rules of theatre. See Godot at The Dukes for a great opportunity to witness a literary classic, or simply just to “pass the time”.