I’m lucky enough to have already seen the production of Samuel Beckett‘s famous play Waiting For Godot which is showing here in Christchurch next week at the Isaac Theatre Royal. This excellent production has received a lot of attention, mostly due to the presence of Sir Ian McKellen in the role of Estragon (or Go-Go as I now call him). McKellen is a renowned British stage and screen actor, most famous for his role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy and as Magneto in the X-Men movies. McKellen has been adopted by New Zealand after spending a year here filming the LOTR movies and saying all sorts of nice things about us ever since. It is his fondness for New Zealand that we have to thank for the presence of this production on our fair shores, as I’m sure it wouldn’t be here otherwise.
Waiting for Godot is famously inaccessible and is known as the play in which nothing happens. It’s punchline, the non-arrival of Godot, is widely known (so I’m not spoiling it for you). Despite the perceived lack of action, it is constantly hilarious and becomes more so as it goes on and becomes increasingly self-aware and self-referential (at one point McKellen’s character Estragon even bemoans – “nothing happens!”). Never has existential angst been so funny. It fits its billing as a ‘tragicomedy’ and is truly a masterwork by famous Irish playwright Beckett. Due to its ‘difficult’ reputation the play is not performed very often, though I suspect this is because it is considerably demanding from an acting point of view, more so than it is difficult for audiences. In this production the acting is first class, McKellen is brilliantly foiled by Roger Rees, while Matthew Kelly (host of tv show ‘Stars in their Eyes’) is unrecognisable as Pozzo. Particularly brilliant is Brendan O’Hea in the absurdly challenging role of Lucky. Waiting for Godot is certainly a play that demands astonishing performances to succeed, but if ever you are going to see a production of it then this is the one to see as both the acting and direction are of the highest order.
- Christchurch performances are on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th July 2010