Friday, 14 May 2010

Beckett's Clowns

Beckett’s Clowns, Hats and the Uncertainty of Existence.

On Thursday I saw “Waiting for Godot” at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. Sir Ian David Copperfield Gandalf McKellen played Estragon and Roger Rees played Vladimir. (Lovely theatre, but uncomfortable seats).

Gandalf was wonderful, so believable, his vagrant costume superb, and his portrayal convincing and humorous, the perfect lovable vagabond. It was a pleasure to watch him hobble across the stage, interact with the other actors, never for a moment slipping out of character. It is almost impossible to imagine another actor's interpretation. And Roger Rees, as the straight man Vladimir, was beautiful.

“That's the way I am. Either I forget immediately or I never forget.” – Estragon

Beckett’s humour and language was superb throughout Estragon and Vladimir’s lines. Unfortunately I can not remember some of the most wonderful lines. It was interesting that in the program the Director wrote that he has no idea what the play is about, however the audience does. And we did. It was certainly enjoyable and the laughs rolled around the theatre. What is art, but what the audience takes away, be it philosophical thought or bum jokes.

(Stooping) “True.” (He buttons his fly) “Never neglect the little things of life.” – Vladimir

I think it is partly about waiting, and about occupying time, and partly about perception and dreams. If we perceive that something has happened how can we be sure that it actually happened as memory is defective. Estragon portrays this through his very poor memory. Then when Vladimir is trying to ascertain whether or not yesterday happened, he could not rely on Estragon, and Vladimir’s uncertainty about the realness of yesterday worries him.

“Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot.” - Vladimir

The actions of the Ruler of the Universe in Douglas Adam’s “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” also portray the uncertainty of existence beautifully.

“… tried wrapping the paper round the pencil, he tried rubbing the stubby end of the pencil against the paper and then he tried rubbing the sharp end of the pencil against the paper. It made a mark, and he was delighted with the discovery, as he was every day.” – Douglas Adams.

Or perhaps the play is about philosophy, poverty, slavery, humanity, friendship, time, illness, mortality, humour, clowns…

I saw a reference to Vladimir and Estragon as being Beckett’s two clowns. I would disagree and argue that Pozzo and Lucky are the clowns. I am sure that people are not supposed to like all characters, and I don’t really like Pozzo and Lucky. They are ridiculous in their actions and words. They are more caricatures and exaggerations then people. And not people that you want to meet. Pozzo’s self centric attitude and disregard for others is sickening and I found his first scene uncomfortable. Whilst V & E are humorous, they still maintain a realness about them.

Throughout there is beautiful choreography of hats, hats being taken off and put back on, stage wise like vaudeville performers. Which adds a level of comedy. Perhaps to remind us that we are watching a play, perhaps to show that there is beauty in everyone. I do not know.

"We are all born mad. Some remain so." - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

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