In some ways, Waiting for Godot is critic proof. Samuel Beckett’s estate takes a dim view of any deviations from the playwright’s original stage directions, resulting in productions that look and feel very similar.
Beckett’s hapless drifters Estragon and Vladimir, vainly awaiting the arrival of the titular Godot, have also become a staple of secondary school English and drama lessons. It lends the play an air of familiarity, even if you’ve never seen it before.
But Druid Theatre’s nimble staging still finds life in the writing by avoiding the temptation for whimsy. Director Garry Hynes catches the rise and fall of the play’s rhythms – the forlornness of its coy dance with our need for meaning.
Designer Francis O’Connor’s approach to the play’s spare staging—a rock, a twig of a tree—has the off-kilter feel of a Magritte painting. The landscape is cracked and parched. It’s a desolate backdrop that heightens the humour’s unforgiving edge.
Aaron Monaghan and Marty Rea bring a sharp, intriguingly sour edge to Estragon and Vladimir. The pent-up exasperation in their performances deepens Vladimir’s growing sense of futility. With Rea’s seemingly endless legs, they also deftly handle the physical comedy.
Rory Nolan is also memorable as the puffed-up Pozzo, whose two appearances reflect the play’s cyclical nature. As the ironically named Lucky, his hapless slave, Garrett Lombard conveys the hardship but doesn’t as vividly capture his warped, scuttling dehumanisation.
Waiting for Godot can work as anything: an allegory for tawdry human history or an existential joke about storytelling. This polished production creates plenty of room for either.