By Samuel Beckett
On January 5th 1953 Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot had its World premiere at the Theatre de Babylone in Paris. Initial reactions were divided and it was not uncommon for audience members to walk out of performances. However, the power of its fame spread quickly and in 1955 Peter Hall directed the English premiere at The Arts Theatre in London.
The play is filled with elements of Beckett’s life, such as the tramps he saw on his travels as well as references to philosophy, religion and a masterful use of the sounds and shapes of language. Beckett once told an interviewer “I am interested in the shape of ideas even if I do not believe in them. There is a wonderful sentence in Augustine. I wish I could remember the Latin. It is even finer in Latin than in English. `Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.’ That sentence has a wonderful shape. It is the shape that matters.”
Some have referred to Waiting For Godot as: “the play where nothing happens.” In reality, there is plenty to watch and enjoy. The lack of a conclusive plot or ending is only frustrating if we expect all lives to have definitive, pre-ordained directions and conclusions. The truth is that we all drift through life looking for answers. We all wait and we all look to other forces to provide us with answers and direction. There is no mystical, subliminal message contained within Waiting For Godot. Beckett always said that, “…it means what it says.”
Above all, the play is supposed to be funny and Playing Up have endeavoured to show the comedy. It is a peculiar trait of the Irish to laugh at the bleakest, most desolate situations and with physical slapstick that has its roots in Vaudeville and even Commedia dell’arte; Waiting for Godot is meant to be enjoyed. Max Wall, the music hall comedian with the trademark funny walk and bowler hat, played Vladimir in 1980 to great critical acclaim.
Oh I Know
I too shall cease
and be as when I was not,
yet only all over instead of in store.
That makes me happy, often now my murmur falters and dies
and I weep for happiness as I go along
and for love of this old earth
that has carried me so long and whose uncomplainingness will soon be mine.
Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first,
then separate, and drift through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea,
something of me.
A ton of worms in an acre, that is a wonderful thought,
a ton of worms, I believe it.
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