Royal Lyceum Theatre
It looks like a picture postcard reproduction of a still life at the start of Garry Hynes’ production of Samuel Beckett’s existentialist vaudeville masterpiece for Galway-based Druid Theatre. Aaron Monaghan’s Estragon is there, squatting like a statue on a pebble-smooth rock that sits on yellow-scorched earth against a battleship grey background. The rings on the barren tree beside him look like a Van Gogh drained of life.
When Marty Rea’s Vladimir enters, possibly the greatest comedy double act ever go into their age-old daily routine as they hang around, filling in the void with banter invested with the desperate comfort that familiarity brings with it. The easiness is there, not just in the duo’s pet names of Gogo and Didi. It’s there too in the way Monaghan and Rea move in unison, craning and stooping in synch, so they resemble cartoons from a Victorian comic strip.
This physical and visual dexterity brings Hynes’ production to life just as much as Beckett’s words that feed it. Francis O’Connor’s painterly design and James F. Ingalls’ biscuit-coloured lighting vividly frames Gogo and Didi’s antics. Monaghan and Rea are by turns deadpan, hangdog and blessed with a terminal optimism, the timing of their exchanges as deadly as in an old-school sit-com.
This is Beckett revealed even more than he has been over the last few years as a comedian extraordinaire. When Rory Nolan’s Pozzo comes on, lording it over Garrett Lombard’s Lucky, the gulf between the haves and have-nots heightens the gallows humour. And when Lucky lets rip with all his suppressed knowledge, he free-forms like a beat poet unleashing the holiest of truths. These are mere diversions, alas, that allow time to lurch forwards inbetween Gogo and Didi’s endless longeurs. They relish these with a resignation one might mistake for hope.
The Herald, August 7th 2018