Director Peter Hall recalled that when Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
opened in London it was greeted with derision and incomprehension by the critics. The story at least goes that critic Harold Hobson left the auditorium, but was persuaded to go back inside and trust the experience. Hobson then wrote a panegyric, and Beckett mania gripped London. Across the Atlantic, Brooks Atkinson wrote of Godot: ‘Theatregoers can rail at it, but they cannot ignore it. For Mr. Beckett is a valid writer’. The legendary critic Kenneth Tynan, required a few weeks to understand the work, but soon concluded: the play ‘forced me to re-examine the rules which had hitherto governed the drama; and having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough.’ Beckett of course went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Well-known South African author Damon Galgut will direct Beckett’s landmark play with a dream team cast: David Isaacs as Estragon; Oscar Petersen as Vladimir; Martin le Maitre as
Pozzo; Graham Weir as Lucky.
Galgut, who has over the years steeped himself in Beckett’s oeuvre, says that the writer “makes complete sense to me, and the intellectual theorising that goes on around his work often leaves me perplexed”.
According to Galgut, Beckett is “a writer who gave embodiment to his internal psychic landscape, which is why he is so insistent that the nature and texture of his work should not be changed in the staging. It’s a wish I’m happy to respect, because inside those parameters quite a latitude of interpretation is still possible.
As director, Galgut intends to, play up “the broader elements of characterisation – the slapstick, the comic patter between the characters, the timing – as well as the anguish of the aimless waiting. It’s called a tragicomedy, so the two poles should both be present, the despair as well as the humour. Beckett is very funny when he’s played seriously.”
Galgut notes that one of the earliest productions was in a prison in the United States – “the physical aspects of the play – the broken-down bodies, the endless state of waiting – were immediately intelligible to the audience. For obvious reasons, I guess. But the same applies to almost any audience. We’re all waiting for Godot, whether we know it or not.”