Waiting for Godot
ADC Mainshow, 7.45pm, until Sat 26 May
Perhaps it’s exam fever or this unexpected and very welcome sun we’ve been having, but suddenly I’m inclined to hand out a spate of five-star reviews. More likely, however, it’s due to the incredibly high quality of performances that have graced Cambridge in recent weeks.
As a self-confessed Godot obsessive, I was intrigued and apprehensive in equal measure about Beckett’s masterpiece coming to the ADC. But my concerns were entirely unfounded: Charlie Parham’s production offers an evening of unadulterated excellence. Beckett’s tragic clowns are played with determination and nuance by Theo Hughes-Morgan and Jack Hudson, Hudson’s wide eyes and open arms creating this horrifically unfulfilled expanse of love, Hughes-Morgan’s grotesque expressions brought out Gogo’s confusion and anger; Parham uses the space on stage between them to highlight the closeness of their relationship and yet the distance that separates them. Often played as ancient music hall performers, this pair seemed fresher, owing their comedy to something more modern – they could be dried-up Footlights down on their luck. Connie Harper’s design leaves them alone on stage, with nothing but a dead tree and a sea of dust; the use of haze and what appears to be talcum powder or sand is genius to creating a fearful malaise around them. Simple but effective lighting design helps us follow the transitions from day to night, but equally reflects the slight unreality of these moments.
But as is all too common when producing this play, it was Pozzo and Lucky who stole the show. Ed Eustace’s Pozzo was sheer mad perfection – in his early appearance terrifying, cruel, deliciously creepy and commanding yet eminently under minable, and managed the difficult trick of maintaining this characterisation in his later, more tragic moments. Guy Woolf’s Lucky, arguably the play’s most difficult role, combined comic sullenness with the dull harshness of subservience and his great monologue, the most contentious moment of the play, was delivered with a precisely paced build towards horror. Of the four bizarre figures, it was to him that one’s eyes would inevitably slide, and the interplay between Woolf and Eustace was disquieting to the extreme. And yet despite the sense of terror and despair that this play inevitably grips its audience with, Parham keeps a tight grip on Beckett’s wicked sense of fun, we observers found ourselves in stitches for many parts of the evening. It’s a challenging text in so many ways: its endless interpretability, the weight of historic criticism and past productions and its inscrutability. But here it’s in very, very safe hands – Parham and his team have a clear and thought-through vision which translates into an exciting, emotional and incredibly relevant piece of theatre. You won’t see many better Godots.