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Theatre Review: Waiting For Godot

LIFE is a cabaret, old chum. Or a maybe it's a music-hall turn, desperately tap-dancing in the dark; or a 70-year performance in which we steadily construct a series of identities; or, in this age of bite-sized therapy, just a series of behaviours that shape our minds, rather than vice versa.

It's been a dazzling week in Scottish theatre, from the heights of a magnificent all-star Waiting For Godot at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh to the labyrinthine depths of the Arches in Glasgow, where director Jackie Wylie's new Behaviour Festival burst into life with a series of short, sharp shows from the cutting edge of theatre. But what all of these shows have in common is a shared interest in the link between performance and life itself: and it's perhaps because they bring to the play such a long and rich experience of both, that the all-star cast of Sean Mathias's great production of Waiting For Godot, now on a pre-London tour of the UK, are able to make such a warm and richly human piece of popular theatre out of a text often dismissed as difficult and obscure.

Originally set at a bleak crossroads, where two old tramps wait for a Mr Godot who never comes, Samuel Beckett's great 1953 absurdist classic is transferred, in Stephen Brimson Lewis's memorable design, to the stage of a ruined or bombed-out theatre. And here, Mathias assembles the kind of veteran cast of which most directors can only dream. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, who play the bowler-hatted double-act Vladimir and Estragon, are both close to their threescore years and ten. Ronald Pickup – in stunning form as the passing servant Lucky, routinely abused beyond endurance by his wealthy boss, Pozzo – will be 70 this year; Simon Callow, who plays the roaring, impossible Pozzo, is 60. Yet all four are still full of life. And their performances are full of a rich, enduring wisdom about how we find our sense of ourselves reflected in the eyes of others, and how, whether we are professional actors or not, we fear the ultimate oblivion of not being recognised, not being seen.

&149 Waiting For Godot is at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, until 18 April

 
 
 

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