Review: Waiting for Godot at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre
- Credit: Archant
It’s more likely that Godot will turn up than that you’ll find a better cast than in the Everyman’s current production of Samuel Beckett’s play about...(we’ll come to that)...says Katie Jarvis
We’re in the Everyman lobby, hugging a radiator, surrounded by sixth formers, waiting (aptly) (ish) to see Waiting for Godot.
Ian has come with me. Ian is unsure about his impending enjoyment-status.
“Is it a comedy?” he asks.
“Sort of,” I say.
“Is it slapstick?”
“Not really,” I say.
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“Not really,” I say.
“A comedy of manners, then.”
I mull on this. “Not really,” I say. “A comedy of waiting,” I say.
There’s a pause.
“Will I understand it?” Ian asks.
“You’re meant to be baffled,” I say. “And you’ve spent years in training.”
One of the sixth formers beside us turns to a friend.
“Spoiler alert!” she whispers. “He never comes.”
There’s huge excitement in the theatre tonight. Tweedy the clown is playing Estragon in Waiting for Godot. (Hang on! How multi-layered is this! (How surreal!) Because Tweedy the clown is already a conceit; a character played by a character.)
Let’s start again.
Everyone in the Cotswolds – and I pretty much mean everyone – knows Tweedy the clown. He’s one of the stars of Giffords Circus; a clown whose one-man shows have become legendary; a clown who’s so physically gifted, all he needs is the simple prop of a broom to sweep an audience off their feet.
Four years ago, Tweedy played his first ‘straight’ (again, ish) role – in the Everyman Studio – as an inoffensive husband who freely admits he’s murdered his wife: John Mortimer’s The Dock Brief.
(“So many lines to learn,” Tweedy sighed, when I asked him why on Earth. “But clowning is all about failing. It’s better to try and fail than not to try at all.”)
It was (you may say) a triumph.
So - my programme tells me - when Tweedy (annual star of the Everyman panto) mentioned he’d be interested in doing another play, someone piped up with Beckett. And whenever anyone mentions Beckett, you can be sure Godot is never far behind.
And, oh my goodness, what a thought that was!
Because from the moment Tweedy appears on the stage - in this play about… (we’ll come to that)… - trying to pull off a boot that smells worse than Vieux Boulogne, we know it’s more likely that Godot will finally truck up than that anyone will find a better Estragon. Even more wonderful, it becomes immediately obvious that the casting wizards have found his ideal foil: Jeremy Stockwell, Vladimir incarnate. (Even had Tweedy’s long-time associate, Keef the Iron, been cast, things could not have been more perfect.)
Tweedy trying to pull off a boot. It’s as if, when Beckett wrote this play about… (we’ll come to that)… he was actually picturing Tweedy in the role.
If you’ve thought, in the past, that Estragon and Vladimir (at first viewing, at least) are interchangeably similar, then this production flouts that convention. Right from the off, Tweedy declaims his lines as if already in on the secret that life is unreal; as if all the world is a stage, and a pretty absurd one at that. Whereas Vladimir valiantly keeps the show on the road; talking the talk; he genuinely – at least, he purports to be genuine – believes that Godot will show.
And then the other characters in this play about… (we’ll come to that)…: the ebullient Pozzo (Mark Roper); the oxymoronically named Lucky (Murray Andrews); even the youngest cast member, The Boy (excellently, hesitantly played by Fraser Martin in our production); what an absolutely superb cast, equally superbly directed by Paul Milton.
It’s pointless me describing the plot of this play about… you know. And whether you favour the political, the Freudian, the existential, the corned-beef-and-apple-pie interpretation, it doesn’t really matter.
All you need to know is that this is a play as cruel, meaningless, funny, random and – essentially – as touching as life itself.
This production brings out every nuance; I loved it.
This is a play for believers in Beckett.
This is a play about...(Ed: Sorry, Katie. You’ve reached your word-limit.)
Waiting for Godot runs at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre from Thursday, February 7 - Saturday, February 16.
Click here to book tickets or call the Box Office on 01242 572573.