Reviewed by G.M.P. for The Croydon Advertiser
Finding hope in Beckett
Runs a joy with silken twine;
It is right it should be so
Man was made for joy and woe.
And when this we rightly know
Safely through the world we go.
So, by way of introduction this time, some words by Blake that, emphasising the dual nature of life, are more “condoling.” And anyway Beckett’s play will sustain this idea too. The tramps are down but not out – yet.
One of them at least can respond to the beauty of the natural world, even if it’s only the sprouting of a few leaves on a scraggy tree. And the child messenger who intermittently renews their flickering faith in waiting could symbolise the new young who want to make life better than the pageant of misery, fear and exploitation that the play often stresses it to be.
More than tha about the work itself, I don’t think I need add. You either love it for what you think is its honesty and allegorical content, or you loathe it because it doesn’t prettiofy anything or offer an easy escape.
Terry Richardson’s production of it for Theatre Workshop was a theatrically well arranged one that used a main arena in front of the stage but occasionally opened out the acting to take in the stage itself. The famous solitary tree was a stark branch, hung over the main acting area.
The production emphasised the circus aspect of the thing, with Vladimir making a clown’s entrance to the “Entry of the Gladiators” and later doing a clown-like routine when he found himself alone and afraid, while the cross-talk of the tramps was in the quick back-and-forth repartee style of the music hall.
The production had pace and considerable variety within the deliberate repetitions and monotonies imposed by the text, and Lucky’s think-piece and the mock-political-style address during Pozzo’s plea for help were delivered from the stage itself. My one big quarrel with the presentation in general was that allowance was not made for the intimacy of the convention and there was too much shouting.
What struck me especially in the acting was the growth of authority in Tryy Brant’s work since I last saw him. He played the extrovert tramp, Vladimir, and vocally had improved immensely, having brought the pitch of his voice down and offering very much more variation in pace and delivery. Movement was agile in its cheery scarecrow way; and the face was reasonably expressive despite glasses and beard, which tend to conceal.
As the more phlegmatic, dour Estragon, Chris Argles used disenchanted eyes to good purpose and spoke the lines in a dry bark that contrasted well with Brant’s more ingratiating style.
Since the play is so repetitious it is a very difficult one to learn, and one could forgive the few lapses of memory, made, unfortunately, more consicuous in open staging with the prompter sitting in the audience. The pair played well together and, though they added nothing very new, both interpretations showed thought and confidence.
Within their closely defined grotesque characterisations, Pozzo, the tyrant, and Lucky, his ill-used slave, were both clearly drawn. brain Mawdsley, who played the former, bawled the orders, indulged in self-congratulation and so on, with the requisite insensitive assertion. Roger Keightley’s Lucky had this good actor’s customary thorough exploration of character and this despite the restriction of a deadpan face and stylised movements. he took his big moment – the long, rambling speech with its apparently disconnected spurting phrases – and made it telling.
The part of the boy messenger, conceived here as an embarrassed urchin in a cloth cap, was touching in its simplicity as played by Rosemary Smyter.
Technical Crew Details: