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Theatre Review (Singapore): Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot was presented by Aba Productions, and ran at the DBS Arts Centre from October 10-13 2012.

Waiting for Godot, a significant tragi-comedy that has since inspired many other literary works, tells the tale of Vladimir (Marcus Lamb) and his friend Estragon (Patrick O’Donnell) who wait in hope of salvation from a man called Godot. Interupting their wait are landowner Pozzo (Paul Kealyn) and his slave Lucky (Nick Devlin).

Waiting for Godot in all its cryptic glory is an exercise for the audience, which must interpret the dialogue, expressions, movement, body language, and story. If you are one who prefers a linear, traditional way of narrative storytelling, you’d probably be terribly bored by this play – and a few people around me did leave at intermission.

Here, nothing is explained, nothing is interpreted for us. We are never told why the two gentlemen are waiting for Godot, or even who Godot is. In fact, through the play the two leading characters refer to each other as Didi and Gogo, and the respective names Vladimir and Estragon are only found in the brochures and synopses. Why is that? We don’t know. We’re never told.

What is this play really about? Ask a dozen people, and you’ll get a dozen different replies. My interpretation via the dialogue is that Gogo and Didi worked at picking grapes, and Gogo was attacked one day, and fell down a well or off a cliff – either way, Didi tried to help and fell along with him. The best I can decipher is that both men died, and are in hell, where they await Godot, a euphemism for God – who tragically never appears!

In “hell” the men wait and wait for God(ot), and meanwhile come across Pozzo and his slave, who are in hell for their own reasons or trespasses. In Pozzo’s case, it is most likely for abusing his slave Lucky. Later, in Act 2, when Pozzo turns up blind, and Lucky becomes mute, we can only conclude that “hell” makes you even worse than before, and takes something from you each time, as a form of punishment.

Surprisingly, in this “hell” all the characters can’t seem to remember the day before. I suppose that’d be the only way to survive such a horrible dispiriting situation – to view it as a “new” day each time, oblivious to whatever atrocities you faced the day before.

Beckett’s script extends itself too long as the second act doesn’t really bring up any new angles. You could even hear the audience uncomfortably shifting positions in their seats as the play ran for close to two hours.

Having said that, under the direction of Peter Reid, all four actors, as well as the child actor Thomas Riley who had a small scene, embraced their characters effectively with layered performances that kept the audience’s attention, despite the overly long performance.

In conclusion, Waiting for Godot will keep you waiting for answers, unless you search for those answers yourself.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.