Monday, 8 June 2009

the three englishmen wait for godot

Busy, busy bee am I.

Had a lovely weekend. Went to see Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket with friends on Friday (more on that in a moment) then went to see those same friends perform their own brand of comedy on Sunday. A bit of Tea Smith and scriptwriting in between and voila: le weekend parfait!

So. Godot. Like Hamlet last week, I have mixed feelings about this production. I first read Beckett's play my freshman year of University - taught to me by a professor I adored - it's one of my favourite pieces of theatre, let alone one of my favourite pieces of writing. I know of few other works open to such multitudinous interpretations as Godot; it truly is a work defined by the maxim, "make of it what you will". The difficulties we may have in defining precisely what Godot is all about (in a way, a pointless exercise, as the play's meaning must be constructed through each individual's meaning) is what makes the play such a marvel.

So Sean Mathias's production, while enormously entertaining in its own right, strips the elegiac beauty and philosophic discomfort from Beckett's text and replaces it with a sort of slapstick, light-hearted humour. I'm just not sure what the point of this production was. Why didn't Mathias get Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to do proper farce a la Noises Off or even something like The Producers? You know when Hollywood makes a dreadful film out of an amazing book? That's sort of the way I felt about this production of Godot, only the amazing book provides fairly precise blueprints for a great film. What I don't understand is how Mathias managed to strip the profundity of Beckett's undertones of the sad state of humanity and replace it with a few happy little jigs. Maybe I just need to stop going to the theatre when a big name has the staring role. Though a week later, I'm still defending my criticism of the Donmar's Hamlet, which was essentially: Jude Law; pretty good, everyone else; pretty bad. So maybe it isn't the big stars who are the problem, but the directors who let them get away with indulgent and self-regarding performances...

I'm pleased to say self-indulgent direction wasn't the case at all with my mates, The Three Englishmen. They performed their hilarious and completely innovative torch lit play, The Lighthouse Keepers, which I've seen once before performed in the round. I can't fawn overly, otherwise I'll be accused of cronyism so I'll just say that it's a delightful piece of work, very funny and truly original - a rare thing these days. My only criticism is that the space in the Wilmington Arms doesn't really lend itself to torch lit and highly physical theatre. Next time, chaps, find a bigger space!

I'm off to see Tom Stoppard's Arcadia this evening and very much looking forward to it - Stoppard's a huge favourite of mine and I've never seen Arcadia performed before so much excitement all round.

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