Review of ‘Waiting for Godot’


Play REVIEW for ‘WAITING FOR GODOT’ at the Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street (until October 10).

I enjoyed seeing this play at a Saturday afternoon performance. I find the matinee shows more mellow and stress-free than evening performances when you have to travel after dark through the busy city centre filled with milling clubbers.

Brian Cox and Bill Paterson play the two lead characters Vladimir and Estragon. Both actors are well-kent faces on TV, Cox has played many roles in Hollywood movies over the years, but I was disappointed to hear that his comedy series ‘Bob Servant’ (set in Broughty Ferry) has been axed by the BBC. Cox is a son of Dundee. His upbringing was in a desperately poor single parent family but as a youth he discovered drama and never looked back. As Vladimir, Cox drawls and whines in the rasping accent of Tayside while Bill Paterson – a son of Kelvinside – speaks with lace-curtain propriety. The curtain rises on a lunar landscape – a barren frosty moor littered with a few boulders and a single twisted leafless tree.

Vladimir and Estragon are wayfarers who have come to this isolated spot to wait for the mysterious Godot who has promised to meet them there. He seems to be a powerful, frightening person. Beckett’s very Irish dialogue is very funny at times.

Cox (65) and Paterson (70) support their verbal repartee with an accurate portrayal of the stiff-jointed stumbling and staggering gait of rather elderly gentlemen with sore feet and back- ache. They rapidly react however to every change of events like demented puppets on strings. Cox’s character is bombastic and assertive, but he is instantly deflated by every setback. Paterson seems more sensitive and fearful, collapsing into panic attacks which Cox tries to comfort.

Two other characters appear – POZZO and LUCKY played by long-serving Lyceum actors John Bett and Benny Young. Pozzo seems to be a wealthy farmer while Lucky is his cruelly abused servant – Lucky is actually tethered to a rope like a beast of burden, carrying his master’s belongings while Pozzo cracks a long whip to intimidate his slave. Lucky remains mute for a long time but is then ordered to ‘perform’ for the others, first to dance then to ‘think’ aloud. For me this was the climax of the play – Lucky delivers a rambling, unintelligible and manic discourse in a thin high-pitched voice. It is a shocking glimpse into the mind of an educated person who has become mentally ill.

Beckett had worked as an attendant at a mental hospital in London in the 1930’s and would have cared for patients like Lucky. Beckett expresses sympathy and pity for the Luckys of the world in this play. This monologue is quite a feat of memory by Benny Young and deservedly received applause from the audience when he subsides into his hopeless silence again.

Some people feel intimidated by Waiting for Godot, expecting it to be difficult and ‘intellectual’. In fact it is a very entertaining comedy with lovely performances from all the actors (including the innocent enigmatic ‘Boy’).

Review submitted by
G.H. / October 2015.

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