Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Waiting For Godot

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


In the middle of nowhere in a barren grey and white world, two old men
stay busy doing nothing while putting their increasingly blind faith in someone
destined to never arrive. So begins Samuel Beckett's now half a century old
piece of bombed-out existential vaudeville, revived here by the Royal Lyceum's
artistic director Mark Thomson to open the Lyceum Company's fiftieth
anniversary season as well as his own swan song in charge of the Grindlay Street
institution.

Casting Brian Cox as a bright-eyed Vladimir and Bill Paterson as
his more melancholy sparring partner Estragon is an inspired move from the off,
as the pair wrestle with ill-fitting boots in Estragon's case or a wet-patch
inducing prostate like Vladimir, all with a time-filling determination that
borders on OCD.

As the pair indulge in terminal small talk and deadpan gallows
humour on Michael Taylor's walled-in semi-circular set that lends things a real
sense of faraway depth, Beckett's theatrical in-jokes remain intact, but are
never over-egged. Instead, a far more moving portrait of broken humanity emerges
than some of the more obviously music hall indebted approaches which the play is
sometimes loaded with.

If itinerant visitors Pozzo and Lucky, played equally
majestically by John Bett and Benny Young, represent an old-school
master/servant hierarchy, Cox and Paterson's Vladimir and Estragon are the last
gasp of a put-down but essentially decent co-dependent democracy in all its
knockabout contradictions. When the pair embrace early on in the second act,
destined to be forever reconciled, the way they cling to each other for comfort
sums up the fall-out of generations thrown onto life's  scrap-heap forever
after.

The Herald, September 24th 2015


ends

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