Waiting for Godot was originally written in French by Samuel Beckett as En Attendent Godot, then he translated it himself into English in the early 1950s. I’m given to understand it doesn’t make much more sense in French though, but then that’s really the point. The plot is simply that two men wait for a third, they talk while they wait – their conversation is mostly absurd and darkly funny, certainly a tragicomedy rather than a simple comedy – and that’s all.
I agree with Anthony Cronin in his biography of Beckett when he says that
One of Beckett’s most notable characteristics is his ability to make truly funny jokes about the genuinely worst aspects of human existence, and nowhere is this talent more evident than in Godot.
If you ever get chance to watch it, you totally should. I was lucky enough to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen playing Vladimir and Estragon in London a few years ago, and it was really, really good.
But that’s not to suggest that reading the play isn’t worthwhile too. Actors can bring so much to the characters and the lines but what you don’t see is Samuel Beckett’s stage directions. For example:
VLADAMIR I don’t understand.
ESTRAGON Use your intelligence, can’t you?
Vladamir uses his intelligence.
VLADAMIR (finally). I remain in the dark.
Imagine being an actor and being faced with that. You need to visibly, in the way the audience can see and understand, have your character use their intelligence. While acting is not my profession, I have no idea how I’d even start with that.
I’m not sure ‘fun’ is the right word to describe the play, the comedy is certainly pretty bleak in places, but Waiting for Godot is really entertaining to watch or to read. I reckon it’s probably quite challenging to perform though.
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