Havant Arts Centre: Thurs 3rd May - Sat 5th May & Thurs 10th May - Sat 12th May 1979
St Mark's Unitarian Church, Castle Terrace (Edinburgh Fringe): Mon 20th August - Sat 25th August 1979
Directed by Langley Gifford
"I don't know who Godot is. I don't even know (above all don't know) if he exists. And I don't know if they believe in him or not, those two who are waiting for him. The other two who pass by towards the end of each of the two acts, that must be to break up the monotony. All I knew I showed. It's not much, but it's enough for me, by a wide margin. I'll even say that I would have been satisfied with less. As for wanting to find in all that a broader, loftier meaning to carry away from the performance, along with the program and the Eskimo pie, I cannot see the point of it. But it must be possible ... Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky, their time and their space, I was able to know them a little, but far from the need to understand. Maybe they owe you explanations. Let them supply it. Without me. They and I are through with each other." SAMUEL BECKETT
'Waiting For Godot' is a tragi-comedy which follows two days in the lives of characters Vladimir and Estragon, who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognise him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide - anything "to hold the terrible silence at bay".
Godot's absence as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's premiere. Seemingly without conclusion and with its minimalist style, 'Waiting For Godot' has been open to political, psychological, philosophical, biblical, autobiographical and even homo-erotic interpretation. In fact it seems that much of the play's success comes down to the fact that it is open to a variety of readings. It is often considered one of the most prominent works in the Theatre of the Absurd movement. Voted "the most significant English language play of the 20th century", 'Waiting for Godot' is Beckett's translation of his own original French version, 'En attendant Godot', and is subtitled (in English only) "a tragicomedy in two acts"
This play was staged at Bench Theatre's home since 1977 - Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant for its first six performances. Then, following a huge fund-raising effort by the whole company to raise the necessary £500, it was taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August later the same year.
|A Boy||Langley Gifford|
|Stage Manager||Anne Brodrick|
In choosing to bring 'Waiting for Godot' to Edinburgh we immediately step onto dangerous ground - if only because we are well aware it has already been so well trodden. The play has had enormous drawing power for actors and directors ever since its first performances; interpretations have followed on each others heels with wide ranging stances taken in relation to who, or what Godot might be. The playwright has kept characteristically silent.
Our production takes no single route; we have nothing definitive on offer. We have started out with the assumption that the play's common currency lies in both the comedy and pathos of hope and despair; that the road ends neither in blinkered optimism nor a violent rejection of life.
We hope we have fairly represented Beckett's play
'Waiting for Godot', Samuel Beckett's entertaining but obscure reflection on futility is an acquired taste. Last night the less subtle intrigues of the General Election performance kept audiences planted firmly in front of their television instead of turning out to make up the usual first-night full house at Havant's Bench Theatre. Critics have pondered for years about the meaning of Beckett's strange story of two tramps interminably waiting for someone who never turns up. After it first came to Britain in the 50s many stopped trying to understand it and gave it up as just plain boring. Beckett might have anticipated that, for one of his characters beneath cretins and sewer rats. Since then his play has been elevated to the fashionable status of a 20th Century classic - and like all Real Art must be beyond reproach. Whether it really is "metaphysically meaningful" as the Bench Theatre states, or is just a rather odd, low-key comedy is open to interpretation. Either way, the Bench turned out a masterly first-night performance of this marathon two-hour 40-minute production.
Laurels must go to David Penrose who somehow improved upon his usual excellence with his interpretation of Gogo, the little tramp with the Irish brogue and ill-fitting boots. Giving a less than excellent performance was the heating at the Arts Centre, which ranged from non-existent, leaving the audience shivering, to stifling and soporific - and the last thing any company wants is to send its audience to sleep. 'Godot' gives Bench member Langley Gifford his first chance of direction - not a tough task with a maximum of only 4 actors onstage at one time - but one to which he has proved himself more than equal. His work can be sampled tonight, tomorrow and on May 10, 11 and 12 at 7.30 p.m. at Havant Arts Centre in East Street. Tickets 60p.
The News, 5th May 1979