Waiting For Godot, King's Theatre

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Waiting For Godot ***** King's Theatre GODOT, as ever, failed to arrive at the King's Theatre last night. But with Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on stage, not to mention Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup in support, the waiting for him was, as anticipated, the theatrical event of the year.

Indeed, demand to see the only Scottish dates for this touring production has so completely outstripped the supply of tickets that the queue outside the ticket office an hour before curtain-up stretched round the corner.

A pointless exercise. The run sold out weeks ago and a spare ticket is as likely to turn up as Godot himself.

Waiting for Godot is, famously, the play in which nothing happens.

Two tramps, Estragon (McKellen) and Vladimir (Stewart) stand around near a tree by a bog in the middle of nowhere waiting for Godot to arrive. That he never does is not to give the game away.

Rather less famously, the truth of the play is that quite a lot happens in the waiting.

For a start, there's the arrival of a pompous aristocratic stranger, Pozzo, with his downtrodden servant Lucky.

Callow and Pickup prove their worth in the roles, creating a relationship that is the opposite of the one between the two tramps.

Then there's the banter. You can forget any preconceptions of McKellen's Gandalf flying in from Middle Earth, Stewart's Picard beaming in from Star Trek's Next Generation or even the reunion of the arch enemies from the X-Men. McKellen and Stewart are brilliant stage actors in their own rights.

This is like watching an old vaudeville double act in the Eric and Ernie mould taking time out from their routines in order to debate the great imponderables of life: is there a deity; Why are we here; is what you remember real; and other such basics of philosophical debate.

The script contains plenty of theatrical references, but this production makes such a relationship more than usually explicit with a set that turns the stage into a derelict, half-demolished theatre.

By the end, McKellen and Stewart actually find themselves kicking up their heels and doing a few of those neatly synchronised hat tricks. Some fans of playwright Samuel Beckett might find such levity inappropriate, which is to fail to appreciate that the play is very funny indeed, in a profound kind of a way.

Moreover, the production makes very clever use of both perceived and deliberate humour. Director Sean Mathias clearly appreciates the mixed audience his various stars are going to attract.

Having created a body to the play that should satisfy all, he ensures that the final scene achieves the thought-provoking depth the play deserves.

Run ends Saturday

Queuing for tickets? Too late, sold out

A STAR-STUDDED cast has helped to make Waiting for Godot one of the best-selling shows at the King's Theatre.

Theatregoers have been keen to see X-Men stars Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart reunited on stage for the first time since the blockbuster films.

The show, which opened last night, marks the return of Sir Ian, who is also known around the world as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series, to the Capital after nearly 20 years.

The demand meant that all of the tickets were sold out several weeks ago, and they have now been exchanging hands on the internet for up to 142 a pair.

Around 1300 people will see it each night until Saturday. It is the most popular show at the theatre since Calendar Girls, which had a sell-out run last October.

A King's Theatre spokeswoman said: "Every single seat has sold out – it's packed to the rafters. This is a once-in-a-lifetime performance, and I think the atmosphere will be fantastic.

"I think the famous names were a big attraction. We had a fairly constant high volume of sales."

She said the credit crunch did not seem to be putting people off.

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