>I don’t remember when I found out about this show – but I do remember where. I was wondering around trying to find my way from Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square. Somehow I ended up walking past the Royal Theatre Haymarket. They had huge signs up for the show and I stopped and took a picture so I wouldn’t forget.
Samuel Beckett is one of my favourite playwrights. I’ve read a few of his shows and have looked into others. Waiting for Godot is a particular favourite as we studied it in University (although that feels like it happened a million years ago now). My friend Tabitha and I performed part of the second act and let me tell ya: Beckett is difficult.
So, in a nutshell: My favourite play by my favourite playwright. I’ve only seen it performed once before; I saw it in Korea with Orla and Joe and thoroughly enjoyed it. Imagine my joy when I saw that I could attend the show in London. Now times that joy by a hundred when I saw who was cast as DiDi and GoGo: Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.
Now, I’m not the world’s biggest LOTR or Star Trek fan (I’m a geek, but not *that* geeky!) but McKellen and Stewart are renown thespians. Heck, the Queen hit McKellen with a sword for being so good. The thought that I would see these two highly talented gentlemen in my favourite play was nearly more than I could stand.
Because he was awesome enough to take me to a play earlier this year, I invited Tyran to join me which he was happy enough to do, in spite of the steep ticket prices. It turns out we were smart to get tickets that far in advance; they sold out extremely fast.
The day of the play I ran away from work as soon as I could and headed into the city. I met Tyran at Trafalgar Square and we headed to the theatre. I was just relieved that we made it on time and there was no problem with picking up our tickets.
The inside of the theatre was gorgeous. It is something I love about London and can’t imagine getting tired of anytime soon – the splendid grandeur of the old theatres that I get to visit not just for plays, but for gigs as well.
The set was more complicated than I was expecting – it is a Beckett, after all. I was expecting nothing more than a dead tree and a rock (as called for in the script) but there were a few other pieces to this set – mostly to add interest to the wall behind them and to part of the floor. To wit, there was a brick wall at the back with concrete debris in front of it. The floor upstage was raked and had holes in it – one through which the boy at the end of the act popped up and another which they played with during the second scene with Pozzo and Lucky where they are all in a pile on the ground. Those set pieces, plus the dead tree and a broken piece of stone bench gave an air of a civilization passed on, of a city (or a part of a city) that was past it’s prime. The lack of detail still allowed for timelessness to the set.
The lighting was incredible. It was very natural and helped with the feel of the play (which good lighting should do). There were no fancy effects and it was never distracting. The sound was another manner. Although minimal, I think the few sounds they did use could have been done away with entirely. Or at the very least, should have been executed in a different way. Case in point, when Pozzo and Lucky left the stage, there was the sound of a crash. This was played over the speakers and thereby came from entirely the wrong direction. I would have much preferred an old-school rendering of the sound and believe they just should have dropped a bunch of shit offstage right.
I know! I know! Get to the performance already! How was the performance?
Mind-blowingly awesome. Just… wow. Wow, wow, wow. I was so impressed – I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with the performance of a cast. Their timing and decisions were amazing. The script was beautifully interpreted and flawlessly presented.
Careybatgirl asked me if the rumours were true: Did McKellen out-perform Stewart? The answer is yes. Now, don’t get me wrong, Stewart was amazing. Absolutely top form. But if this was a contest he would have been out of luck – he was in top form but McKellen was perfect. His portrayal of Estragon was gorgeous. At no point did you ever think he was “acting”. If you had seen McKellen in character on the street, I promise you would have tossed him some coins instead of asking for his autograph. His character was that well constructed and performed.
Simon Callow as Pozzo and Ronald Pickup as Lucky were also brilliant. I don’t know the actors, but I really liked what they did with their parts as well. I always have deep respect for any actor that is willing to tackle the role of Lucky; I can only imagine the difficulty of having to memorise his long, rambling monologue.
After the show Tyran and I went to the Sherlock Holmes pub (right near Great Scotland Yard, naturally) and had a pint of real ale to discuss the show (and, unrelatedly, the 80 year-old man who was stood at the bar and dressed like a pimp). It was lovely to be able to discuss the show with someone who seemed to genuinely enjoy it every bit as much as I did.