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Theatre Nations' Waiting for Godot

Theatre Nations’ Waiting for Godot

Theatre Nation does Beckett

Hastings-based company Theatre Nation brings Samuel Beckett to Sussex later this month. Waiting for Godot, the company’s third major production, opens at the White Rock Theatre on 25 and 26 March, before moving on to tour the country. Here A. Vasudevan talks all things Godot with producer Tom Daldry.

Waiting for Godot is in many ways like marmite – you either get it or you don’t. And many people have thankfully got it, from Sir Peter Hall and Susan Sontag, in her stunning production based in Sarajevo, to the producers of the performances in post-Katrina New Orleans, and beyond.

A play that seems to have particular resonance in times of political or social strife, Godot’s appeal may be down to the fact it’s open to interpretation. Who is Godot? Why is he so important to the two men waiting for him under a tree? Well, perhaps he’s whoever you want him to be.

Beckett’s biographer, Anthony Cronin, once said that Beckett’s ability to make extremely funny jokes about the very worst aspects of human existence was among his most notable characteristics as a playwright, adding ‘nowhere is this talent more evident than in Godot’.

Godot is an acknowledged modern masterpiece,’ says Theatre Nation’s Tom Daldry. ‘And great plays never date, they always speak to their times. The opening stage direction of Godot is a classic of modern theatre – “[A] country road. A tree. Evening.”

Sculptor Leigh Dyer demonstrates progress with the set (photo: Peter Mould).

Sculptor Leigh Dyer demonstrates progress with construction of the set (photo: Peter Mould).

Tree as metaphor

‘The tree has become iconic,’ he continues, ‘a metaphor of our age as we wilfully destroy and watch the trees of the planet burn. It’s like looking at the last tree in the world, and that’s what I suggested to Leigh Dyer when he began his design: “create the last tree in the world”.’

Renowned sculptor Dyer has created the central stage element for the play from metal, ninety per cent of which is from scrap. Against this, Beckett’s tragicomedy unravels, brought to life by veteran actor Ben Keaton (Vladimir), making his return to the stage after an absence of ten years, and Theatre Nation’s own Patrick Kealey (Estragon). Kealey says, ‘Godot is the perfect blend of comedy and downright absurdity. Like all great plays, it’s always a play for our times. It never dates.’

‘We go to great artists like Beckett because they are truth tellers,’ adds Daldry. ‘They are willing to draw our attention to the ambiguities of existence, the big questions, the deep questions, that our trivial society increasingly ignores.

Patrick Kealey getting in character for Estragon (photo: Peter Mould).

Patrick Kealey getting into character for Estragon (photo: Peter Mould).

‘Theatre provides a forum where we can confront real humanity, and Beckett does it with humour, great wit, great subtlety, a magnificent feel for the music and cadence of language, and he strips back our pretensions, our delusions and our lies. There’s something bracing, inspiring and fulfilling about sharing that experience with others in a public forum, which is essentially what theatre can be.’

Certainly Beckett does that, his play standing the test of time. Still being reinterpreted by theatre companies, on film, on the radio. Still finding audiences more than seventy years after Beckett first wrote it. Still influencing writers today.

Obviously, there are a lot of people who like marmite.

Since this article was originally published the C-V has impacted on life as we know it, leading understandably to the closure of many public spaces and venues and the cancellation of events.

Waiting for Godot has been rescheduled for next year. For further details, please contact Tom Daldry

Please stay well and safe. May kindness, friendship, common sense and community get us through this in the best possible way for all of us. AV


Posted 18:38 Tuesday, Mar 10, 2020 In: Performance

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