What could be stranger? Waterford playing Kilkenny in an All-Ireland hurling final? Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece of world theatre (universal theme?) on a 32 county national tour in a big black bus? That it played The Watergate Theatre on the weekend Friday and Garter Lane on the Saturday? That both cities were waiting for Liam McCarthy (the Cup) more than for Godot? (more than for God?)
You’d wonder when Beckett came to Waterford did he stand on the steps of the Adelphi Hotel and seek out the pale moon? Would he have been impressed to know his work was on tour, that Martin Cullen T.D., Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, was in the Waterford audience; would he have been more impressed that Jim Daly had made it or that Jim Nolan got two penalty points on his licence collecting All-Ireland tickets? Or what Waterford’s new playwright Adam Wallace was in the audience?
A play like Waiting for Godot evokes such thoughts as to what are we (poor banished children of Eve?) doing; what are we waiting for? Many commentaries have been written as to the meaning of this play but on Friday and Saturday it might have been about – Don’t stop believing. In the depths of despair four characters meet beside a tree, two are carelessly travelling and inflicting hurt of different types on each other, two are afraid to leave as they are waiting for an important, but unexplained, Godot to come.
Some have said it is a play where nothing happens twice, others say it is about the nihilism and death of hope after two World Wars and back in the 1950s, when it was first produced, that seemed more relevant. I think it is about the actors art, the actors job to come on stage and say the same words every night, knowing the outcome, yet persisting until the play ends and there is the warm soup, the accolade of applause.
But too often we seek meaning as some validation of our own existence. If I am going to sit through this play, I want to know what it is about. But is it a play about waiting, and we all of us do a lot of waiting and we invest our waiting with meaning and purpose.
This production is a masterpiece of acting, with four of the most skilful interpreters of Beckett. Johnny Murphy as Estragon brings splashes of humour and recognition to the work with such presence. Barry McGovern as Vladimir shows why he is the foremost interpreter of Beckett and I was in awe of his masterclass. Stephen Brennan gave us a glorious word-spilling word-bewildering Lucky with all the irony of not even being lucky enough to be alive. Alan Stanford as Pozzo was as the leader, the posh one doomed to be a follower – a blind follower – (a seeker of nothing?). His immaculate acting skills made me sorry for the cruellest of people in the play.
At every level this was a fantastic success for Michael Colgan and The Gate Theatre as they did the work you would expect the National Theatre to do.
Before I forget it, Kevin Maher played the Boy – the messenger from Godot. Walter D. Asmus directed as a colleague and friend of Beckett should.
Memories are made of events like this and it was sweet to be part of these memories at Garter Lane where a radiant Caroline Senior dedicated the performance to the late Larry Fanning, the founding Chairman at Garter Lane.