Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Kings Theatre: Waiting for Godot. Still swooning.

-Let’s go.

-We can’t.

-Why not?

-We’re waiting for Godot.

In just over two weeks I will turn 34, on the same day that will mark my 4-year anniversary of being a UK resident. Living in this country and working where I do has afforded me some truly bizarre and wonderful experiences. I have met Princess Anne, seen Leonard Cohen perform in front of a castle, spotted one of my favourite comedians (Dylan Moran) in a café, seen Mali’s most famous musicians in concert, mingled with military generals and brigadiers and majors, and attended a plethora of incredible theatre productions, including Peter Shaffer’s Equus and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent production of Hamlet.

And then there was last night.

I will always remember the moment I saw Ian McKellen’s hands creep up over the fallen wall, the grubby agile worms of his fingers serving as Estragon’s introduction.

JP had booked the tickets for Waiting for Godot, way back in January. Somehow he got us front row centre seats, so we could be right there to see Patrick Stewart’s stern bow furrow, or Simon Callow’s face bulge like a puffer fish during moments of exertion.

How did I get so lucky, to be just feet away from these power houses of British theatre? To sit beneath Lucky’s verbal downpour …for reasons unknown/time with tell/tennis of all kinds…and watch as Ronald Pickup forgot how to be Ronald Pickup and instead became the slave who was…lucky.

I regret not having studied the play beforehand. One of the reasons I got so much out of Hamlet was by being familiar with the story and many of the key lines and speeches. All I knew of Waiting for Godot was the very basic premise that it consisted mainly of two men who were waiting for someone who never shows up.

Because of this I felt as if I was both watching the play and missing it at the same time. A desperation to watch it again stayed with me for the entire two hours. Yet I knew I would not be able to watch it again -this was a once in a lifetime chance and it was flying past, even as the concept of time itself was being warped in front of me.

So much of the power of this play lies in all of the subtleties, the tone of voice and particularly body language. Watching Ian McKellen limp about on his sore foot was like watching a clock being wound. You get the sense that his very ligaments are being tugged at or mildly electrocuted.

McKellen and Stewart are a mesmerising team. Stewart’s approach to playing Vladimir was to treat the relationship between he and Estragon as a marriage. That’s how it felt - all that warmth and the moments when one or the other is quick to anger but quicker to forgive and oh, not to worry, tomorrow we’ll bring a bit of rope and hang ourselves. Unless Godot comes…

The experience of seeing these actors and this play has been sinking into me since last night. The best thing to come out of it is that I now love this play. I want to read it, see another production of it, read it again, call JP a sewer rat and hope he calls me a curate. But not a critic - never that.

So hurrah for all my adventures so far, and another hurrah for the future adventures for 2009, which include a trip to the Science Festival this Saturday to see Richard Dawkins, a holiday up north along the coast next month, another journey to Stratford to see Julius Caesar, and the Queen’s garden party this summer. Which reminds me, I really must buy a frock.


La Bête said...

That was really excellent. Your review I mean. I've neither seen nor read the play. I'd like to now though. I particularly like the 'grubby agile worms' of McKellen's fingers. (If that turns out to be Beckett's and not yours, not to worry. There were plenty other things I liked too. If it is yours, I've just compared your writing to Samuel Beckett's.) (I've never read him though.) (But I've heard he has a following.) Anyway, when you see the Queen, do feel free to put your arm around her.

Dale said...

Sigh. Good theater. It's been way too long.

PurestGreen said...

S Cattermole has commented on my blog. I am giggling like a schoolgirl.

Don't despair, Dale! You can make your own theatre. With puppets and sound effects made by crunching tin foil and blowing into empty toilet paper rolls (the storm! Wooooooo)

Cheryl said...

Ditto hurrah for you for starting your life anew in a far away land.

I've always wondered about that play and you got to see it with both Stewart and Mckellen!

The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

Ian McKellen!!Oh I am jealous!

Viva la vida, Purest Green! Go get the frock so you'd look fab as you embark on yet another wonderful year in...wait where are you again? ;-)

I find your blog refreshing! Your writing style is wonderful!
And I really like your sense of humour.

Lindab said...

Great review. I'm not going to get to see this, but your review made up for it a bit. The closest we get is driving past the theatre. I found myself giving a 'summarise Proust in 60 seconds' version of it to my children, dredging up what I could remember of having studied it at university oh so many years ago.

Marcheline said...

You saw Hamlet. And I thought I couldn't be any more jealous of you than I already am...