Robert Tanitch reviews Waiting for Godot at Arcola, London E8
“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” said Samuel Beckett, “it is the most comical thing in the world.” Vladimir and Estragon have been blathering about nothing in particular for over 60 years and they will go on blathering so long as there is theatre.
Asked what the play meant, Beckett said it meant what it said, neither more nor less. Audiences during its London premiere in 1955 were infuriated by its seeming obscurity and used to storm out of the theatre shouting abuse at the actors. Nowadays children have no difficulty in understanding it.
Simon Dormany’s revival stars Totally Tom, the British comedy duo, Tom Stourton and Tom Palmer, who made their name with a short film, High Renaissance Man, and won a huge fan base on BBC’s Live at the Electric.
It is not unusual for comedians to appear in Beckett. Max Wall was hugely successful. However, Waiting for Godot doesn’t make sense when Gogo and Didi are cast with actors in their mid-twenties and Stourton and Palmer, making their straight stage debut, aren’t up to the seriousness and poignancy of the play. As you might expect they are most at ease with the music hall cross- talk and circus slapstick; though even here, except for a comic “boot” routine, they are rarely funny enough. I have been better entertained (as Beckett said).
Pozzo is played by Jonathan Oliver as a demented ring-master cracking a whip. Lucky’s long, rambling, incoherent and seemingly unstoppable oration, which drives everybody up the wall, is delivered by Michael Roberts. The Boy, as played by Adam Charteris, is not your usual young innocent and the foreign accent makes him much more knowing and menacing