Sparse, repetitivie, dark and hilarious: Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, directed by Patrick Sutton, received a full airing this week at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. ‘Godot’ entertained the tiers of the 350 year old theatre by colluding with an audience willing to laugh at the futility of life’s revolutions and to dismiss the inertia of an inactive existence. While Vladimir and Estragon , played byt Patrick O Donnell and Charlie Hughes, while away the time, they refelct on being caught between not having ‘tried everything’ and the reality that there is ‘nothing to be done’. The cyclicity of their musings and squables is broken only by the physicality of the performances delivered by the two tramps as they hobble, sway and stray through the theater space with a carefully crafted choreography.
At times the performance is loud and tethers close to frenzy. Indeed, Lucky’s astounding speech in Act Two threatens to overwhelm the character. Such is the performance delivered by Simon Stewart however, that rather than witnessing a collapse in tension, the viewers are forced into a full confrontation with the bait-like dialogue. At times the dialogue toys with the audience suggesting they are “all these corpses” sitting in the tiers and accuses them of never being “the same pus” or face in succession.
In other instances the audience are drawn into considering the difference between being human and whiling away our humanity. Made aware of the body’s abject effusions throughout the two act tragic comedy, the audience collude with Vladimir and Estragon in bursts of laughter. Comfortable in our seats, Pozzo reminds us of our difficult birth astride a grave. His claims to territory and to being of the “same species” as the tramps suggest the audience are also of the same species.
Sharing the same theater space, the same language and the same levels of inactivity render us partially responsible for Pozzo’s dreadful treatment of his slave Lucky as another non-human species altogether. We watch. We laugh. We do nothing. The space of fiction facilitates a harmless mediation of humanitiy’s entrapment in cages of abusive power built by ourselves around ourselves. However, while the lights dim, Didi’s words “all mankind is us” echo in our ears, exposing us as a species wholly responsible for each other at each monent and at each place in time.