Preview: Waiting For Godot

20 May 2012

This week the ADC plays host to one of the greats of 20th century drama. TCS got in touch with the ‘Godot’ team to find out more…

Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ has been described as a play where nothing happens… twice. So why is the upcoming production of Beckett’s tragicomic masterpiece such an exciting project? This production envisions Vladimir and Estragon – conventionally portrayed as old tramps – as young men, bringing youthful energy to the action, and a poignant sense of stunted, abortive growth to the tragedy. Director Charlie Parham describes the process as a fiendish but endlessly rewarding challenge – and, perhaps surprisingly, claims that tackling this dramatic-philosophical beast requires an awful lot of not thinking: “We’ve spent a lot of rehearsal time just ‘playing’. The less the actors think, the better. Beckett’s play is driven by harsh rhythms, and the only way of getting it right is really feeling them, instead of thinking, ‘There’s a pause here. What does this imply? Why’s it there?’. If you just get on with it, letting Beckett’s textual rigidity take over the action, then the answers (or indeed, ambiguities) emerge. And that’s when it becomes relentlessly comic and heart-wrenchingly bleak. It can feel constrictive at first, but I guess it’s why he’s such a bloody genius”.

The play is renowned for its ambience of desolation and despair, but Parham and the whole team are keen to stress the importance of the play’s comic elements. They say that one of the biggest challenges is acting it as a comedy, without falling into the trap of playing those famously bleak lines in a purposefully tragic manner; rather, it is the relentless, hollow laughter that will truly bring out the power of the play’s poignant tragedy. At the same time, Parham stresses that this does not mean playing it “for laughs”: it is “the comic timing, the hysterical rhythms” that are in turn so hilarious and desperate. Again, Parham underlines the importance of not questioning too much, and just simply ‘playing’. Who is Godot? It doesn’t matter…

Along with textual fidelity, which Parham feels is so crucial, come strict aesthetic constraints. The design that the creative team have spent a lot of time planning and building is meticulously faithful to Beckett’s stipulations: although infamously sparse, they say that achieving ‘nothingness’, in all its distorted beauty, certainly doesn’t make this play any less of a challenge than any other.

Also a part of the production is twelve-year-old Matthew who is stepping onto the ADC stage for the first time in the role of the ‘Boy’. Parham says that directing an actor of Matthew’s age is fascinating and very different from working with the other actors: “He turns up, knows all his lines (!), and just does it. When you’re that age you’re not plagued by the over-thinking, insecurities and self-awareness that come with age. You just do it!”. Matthew said, “Rehearsals have been fun, I think all of the actors are very good. I’m a bit nervous but looking forward to the opening night and I think it’s going to go well.”

Waiting for Godot is the ADC Mainshow from Tue 22nd– Sat 26th May, at 7.45pm.