Including an excerpt from ‘Waiting for Godot’
By Samuel Beckett
Technical Crew Details:
Reviewed by G.M.P. For The Croydon Advertiser, Friday July 16th 1971
Theatre Festival slow to warm up
There was no angry young man this year to enliven the discussion with shouts of “pseudo avant-garde rubbish” when the first of three nights of the festival of Youth Theatre, promoted by Theatre Workshop Coulsdon, was held at Coulsdon Youth Centre on Saturday.
In fact the level of after-show talk was tame and somewhat fragmentary. Perhaps the poor attendance had something to do with it, for certainly were no more than 30 people there at the end – and these were mostly members of the evening’s casts. Maybe the broiling heat of the day inhibited intellectual curiosity and zeal for an artistic cause, progressive or traditional. Perhaps things will liven up on the second and third evenings of the festival tonight (Friday) and tomorrow.
One must in any event salute the enterprise of Theatre Workshop in again mounting this showcase for youth drama, and in widening its boundaries to take in teams from Kennington and even Littlehampton. In fact the extension of the festival by one night this year is a sign of growth. If only these events could count on better public support!
Unfortunately, owing to the fact that I was reviewing the open-air play at Polesden Lacey during the afternoon, I arrived at Coulsdon in the evening too late to see CYTO’s first entry (they have another tonight), a very short piece by Edward Albee called “The Sandbox.”
Questioned about its meaning at discussion time, the producer, CYTO’s new director, Jim Naughton, said that it “makes a criticism of the selfishness of American society.” We must take note, he said, since what the United States do in one decade reaches Britain in the next. This was challenged by one of the audience, who thought that if Britain entered the Common Market the influence of America on us would be broken. (How one hopes this optimism is justified!)
Albee’s piece was followed by what Minerva Youth Theatre of Kennington called “Will Shakespeare and Co.” but which I kept calling to myself “Shakespeare Jazz.” This was an excerpt from a longer programme they are to present in their own district this week, amalgamating scenes and speeches from the Bard in a highly individual modern way and adding up, the producer told me, to a patchwork about Shakespeare’s “goodies and baddies.”
Disappointingly, the group asked that there should be no discussion about it as the producer didn’t want his ideas to be “unsettled.” Which argues considerable modesty, since most amateur directors are totally impervious to external comment once their notions are fixed. Minerva more usually work on improvisations to a theme, and this was their first scripted effort, though its author might have found it bewildering. The parts we saw had zest and vitality and, in such items as the ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ interlude, lively humour.
Which left the home team’s “Waiting for Godot,” an excerpt from the production by Terry Richardson which I reviewed last week. To this the audience was very responsive, and the players again gave a good account of themselves in the final scene from Pozzo’s entry blinded (from where the character of ‘Pozzo’ enters, having become blind). A rather waffling discussion about it brought out the fact that the producer by no means thinks the play devoid of hope. Rather less heartening was the fact that the individual players appeared not to have very positive attitudes to the interpretation of their roles, grinning a trifle sheepishly and temporising when asked about this or that aspect.
On such a hit-and-miss level the talk staggered on for a while and then ground to a halt. Better luck tonight and tomorrow.