Waiting For Godot – Review – West Yorkshire Playhouse
Waiting For Godot – Review
West Yorkshire Playhouse, February 2012
by Nate Wisniewski
West Yorkshire Playhouse may have just pushed the barriers a little further back… Talawa Theatre Company’s Waiting For Godot is the first all black cast production of Samuel Beckett’s classic since it first appeared fifty-nine years ago. It’s also the first time I’ve been to see the iconic play. There’s no connection between the two. I haven’t been waiting around for an all black cast before I go to see it. But if I have, I wonder, would I have been happy with the wait?
Certainly, the production does not disappoint. It is an excellently performed rendition, with charming performances – an intimate production within a sparse, stylistic, multimedia set. But what of its significance as an all-black production? Certainly, there are scenes that take on extra significance in this context, such as the introduction of the slave, Lucky. Various back and forth banter between the two lead characters, Vladimir and Estragon, also alludes to the casting, along with giving a postmodern wink to the audience. But for a play about all of humanity, in which nothing is concretely located in any time or place, the skin colour of the cast seems almost unimportant.
“Exploits the script’s comedic potential”
If you’re not familiar with the premise, the play follows Vladimir and Estragon, who spend their time (and ours) waiting for the arrival of a certain Mr. Godot. While they wait, they ponder on life, death and the nature of time. They also meet an eccentric rich man named Pozzo and his slave, Lucky. Don’t get false impressions – little happens. As we wait, we are fed with absurdist rhetoric and left to ponder the futility of choice and the meaninglessness of life. But despite focusing on the elephant in the inner monologue, the play is set up for laughs. And Talawa Theatre Company exploits the script’s comedic potential well.
Jeffrey Kissoon (Vladimir) and Patrick Robinson (Estragon) take on the lead roles brilliantly, finding the warmth and humanity beneath the absurdity. But it is John S. Cornell, as the eccentric Pozzo, who steals the show. Instantly both charismatic and detestable, Cornell’s playful delivery of Pozzo adds an almost Brechtian humour to the night, such as the high-pitched squeals that make light of his barbarous actions. His dramatic change in act two also gives Cornell the chance to demonstrate his versatility as an actor, and he rises to the challenge superbly.
If you miss Waiting For Godot at West Yorkshire Playhouse, it will go on a national tour shortly after. But while it’s on our doorstep, if you’re a fan of Beckett, you really should make the trip. If, like me, you’re new to Beckett, there’s still plenty to enjoy.
pictures: Richard Hubert Smith