Waiting for Waiting for Godot
Venue: St James Studio, London
Author: Dave Hanson
Producer: Libby Brodie Productions
Director: Mark Bell
Cast includes: Simon Day, Laura Kirman, James Marlowe
Dates of run: Aug 30-Sept 24
Running time: approximately 90 minutes

 

The absurdity of preparing a role you will never perform because a God-like director never summons you is so superlatively Beckettian it’s amazing no understudy had thought of making it into a play until understudy-turned-writer Dave Hanson found inspiration while waiting endlessly in the wings.

Or perhaps everyone else just balked at the challenge of measuring themselves against Beckett’s genius, which can make the excruciating sublime.

In fairness to Hanson, directed by Mark Bell, he pitches his tribute at the level of broad, earthy comedy and his echoes of Beckett’s language are wisely selective enough to satisfy the connoisseur without alienating everyone else.

Equally, the multiple allusions to the hardships of life as an undiscovered actor resonate beyond the profession.

And at its best, especially in the second half, Hanson, under Mark Bell’s direction achieves the effortless rhythm of the hapless, bickering of the original Vladimir and Estragon.

As Ester and Val (Simon Day and James Marlowe respectively) do not eschew cliché and the broadness of the comedy verges on the coarse, depending on your taste.

Ester is an ageing artiste, paranoid, egotistic and jealously intent that fellow understudy Val should suffer for his art every bit as much as he has.

Marlowe’s Val is on the surface young and credulous but when pushed capable of a not-quite-heroic bending of the rules.

Their foil is not the boy of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, but an equally indifferent third-party in the form of Assistant Stage Manager Laura, played absolutely straight by Laura Kirman, who offsets the existential loneliness as she breathes the air of full houses and down-to-earth common sense.

She also nonchalantly delivers the cruellest line of the play and stirs up a hint of the pathos that suffuses Beckett.

The cleverest clowning surrounds Ester’s too small waistcoat, which Day, clad in underwear and slippers, desperately tries to button around his bulky stage presence.

It all starts to make sense in the second half after Val, whom the waistcoat fits perfectly, makes off with it and Ester’s fragile identity crumbles to the point he cannot compute the evidence of his own eyes.  We would yell out to him the truth if we hadn’t been so thoroughly drawn into a consciousness that everything is absurd.

Barbara Lewis © 2016.

James Marlowe, Simon Day. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

James Marlowe, Simon Day. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

Simon Day, James Marlowe. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

Simon Day, James Marlowe. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

Laura Kirman, Simon Day, James Marlowe. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

Laura Kirman, Simon Day, James Marlowe. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

James Marlowe, Simon Day. Photo credit Andy Tyler.

James Marlowe, Simon Day. Photo credit Andy Tyler.