THEATRE REVIEW: Waiting for Godot @ Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist, existentialist play about two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for the eponymous stranger Godot - assumed by some critics to represent God or some other mystical, much vaunted stranger - never makes for easy viewing.
But the Irish playwright, who was born in Dublin, educated at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen and spent most of his adult life in Paris, has always been appreciated by a niche market; he shook up the theatrical world of 1950s Paris with experimental, hugely avant-garde plays that were unlike anything seen before, even producing work that featured only one mouth delivering lines at lightning speed - the actress’s body blacked out so that all that was visible were the teeth and moving lips.
This production by Irish-based company the Gare St Lazare Players, was faithful to the spirit of Beckett’s lugubrious piece, which among other things asks questions about the meaning of life and whether the humiliation and degradation is worth it.
“We’re not tied”, begins Estragon (Gary Lydon) to Vladimir (Conor Lovett) - the first line delivered as both actors in bowler hats stare blankly into space on a spare, moon-lit stage whith a single tree and stony flooring in silvery grey - the suggestion is that we have entered a twilit hinterland where logic has dissolved. The landscape itself delivers a Beckettian comment on the bleakness of existence, but the play is not entirely melancholy; in fact, Beckett is brilliant at flashing black humour through the gloom.
The master-slave relationship between Pozzo (Gavan O’Herlihy) and Lucky (Tadgh Murphy), who crawls about mournfully on a leash, seems a dark yet incisive comment on the exploitative connections that prevail among human beings. But as Estragon, reminds us, there is freedom too, and hope, because “we’re not tied”.
For more information on events happening as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s visit www.belfastfestival.com/.