Garry Hyne’s Waiting for Godot is an unusually comforting and optimistic interpretation of Beckett’s best-known play, due to its focus on friendship, unforced humour and beautiful aesthetic.
A high-profile staple of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, Garry Hynes’s Waiting for Godot revival has considerable expectations to live up to. It’s – fortunately – a beautiful production of Beckett’s best-known play, focusing largely on the friendship between Vladimir and Estragon. Naturally, the themes of repetition, absurdity of life and loneliness come across, but after leaving Druid’s Godot, the resounding feeling we’re left with is that – with a good friend by your side – passing time in this absurd world can be fulfilling, all by itself.
Francis O’Connor’s ‘single tree’ design keeps the topic of loneliness present and pertinent throughout the performance. But though his colour palette is grim and subdued, the minimalistic set design is so extremely beautiful that it doesn’t fully confirm the glooming mood established by this colouring. Action takes place within an enormous white frame, making the entire stage seem like a photograph you’d admire in a high-end gallery. There’s an argument to say it sometimes takes away from the actors on stage, as you admire the very composition, but also one to say it’s almost designed to.
Druid’s production of Waiting for Godot contrasts the topic of loneliness by playing into the humour of the writing (and finding its own) effectively. A lot of it comes from classic tricks of the trade, such as a classic comic pair made of a shorter Estragon (Aaron Monaghan) and a tall Vladimir (Marty Rea). A lot of laughs are also due to Rory Nolan’s portrayal of Pozzo as a mincing large man sitting on an extra-small chair. In this staging of Waiting for Godot, unlike others, there’s never a feeling of humour being forced. Everything naturally arises from the situation and the casting.
All of these elements make Druid’s Waiting for Godot a stellar production worth seeing and well-executed from everyone involved, but one that perhaps lacks a bit of heaviness. In the end, there’s not quite enough to make you think. Pozzo’s blindness and dependence on Lucky (Garrett Lombard) in Act 2, for example, is presented quite unremarkably as if they haven’t quite paid enough attention to that part of the play. Although disappointing, such an approach is almost expected as there’s no previous signs that Hynes’s production would dig deep into the more philosophical topics.
It’s a comforting piece of work though due to its focus on friendship, which I’ve never said of any previous Godot. And while my remark above still stands, Hynes clearly has a different, more positive reading of Godot – which is refreshing to see and enjoyable to watch.