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Liam Rudden: So, is Godot still worth waiting for after sixty years?

PATRICK STEWART engaged as Vladimir. Sir Ian McKellen cast his spell as Estragon. Godot failed to turn up. But then, that was a given.

What is arguably the highlight of the Scottish theatre year is currently playing to capacity houses at the King's Theatre.

Waiting For Godot is Samuel Beckett's play in which nothing really happens – just as well then that this touring production boasts four actors who can take nothing and craft it into a masterclass of observation.

Perhaps it is simply because so little happens that this interpretation works so well. With more than 150 years combined experience, Stewart, McKellen, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup use every skill in their repertoire to engage and hold the attention.

Stewart, still best remembered for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, The Next Generation, positively revels in the opportunity to show his TV fans where he is most at home – on the stage.

McKellen, meanwhile, is surprisingly vulnerable and understated. Together their chemistry is electric.

Understatement is something that Callow has never done well, which makes him inspired casting as Pozzo, while there's a chilling menace about Pickup as his hard done- by man servant, Lucky.

If you've never seen Waiting For Godot, the story is simple. Two tramps wait by a tree for the mysterious Godot – who never turns up.

As they wait, they reflect on life, the universe and everything, to paraphrase Douglas Adams.

Once voted "the most significant English language play of the 20th century", Beckett actually wrote the play in French – En attendant Godot – as a tragicomedy in two acts.

Despite the star turns on show at The King's, however, there is no escaping the fact that Waiting For Godot is at best an exercise in navel gazing, and as such it's hard to imagine it engaging without such a skilled company to bring it to life.

But then Beckett himself hinted as much. When an abridged version of the play opened in 1952, he wrote in a letter read out on the opening night: "I don't know who Godot is. I don't even know (above all don't know) if he exists. And I don't know if they believe in him or not – those two who are waiting for him.

"The other two who pass by towards the end of each of the two acts, that must be to break up the monotony.

"All I knew, I showed. It's not much, but it's enough for me, by a wide margin. I'll even say that I would have been satisfied with less.

"As for wanting to find in all that a broader, loftier meaning to carry away from the performance, along with the programme and the Eskimo pie, I cannot see the point of it.

"But it must be possible... Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky, their time and their space, I was able to know them a little, but far from the need to understand

" Maybe they owe you explanations. Let them supply it. Without me. They and I are through with each other."

If you're lucky enough to have a ticket – decide for yourself.

 
 
 

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