Waiting For Gandalf?

Last week I had the pleasure of going to see Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Royal.  It’s a play I know a little bit, but only really from my school days.  It’s famous of course, for being the play where nothing happens twice.  It’s been performed terribly in many schools and local theatres, partly because it has a cast of 4, and a simple set.

People have talked about Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart being wonderful, but I didn’t get round to that.

I was not disappointed.  It’s a play that still divides audiences, and I am not sure any performance will necessarily change that.  A depressing amount of people still left at the interval, and quite a number of people supping on red wine in the bar were talking in terms of “I just don’t get it”.  In honesty, I’m not sure I do either.  But that didn’t stop me enjoying it.

The cast do an amazing job.  Roger Rees is a wonderful foil for the slightly more bumbling McKellan.  He is sleek and thoughtful and does a stirling job.  Ronald Pickup is a desperate figure, bedraggled and put upon.  His ‘outburst’ moment is wonderful and extreme and his physicality in the rest of the role speaks of a very dedicated performer – I’d love to see him in a different role now.  Matthew Kelly is a grotesque caricature, who is repellant and larger than life in a brilliant fashion.  His sheer bulk dwarfs the other actors and his presence is immense.  He’s a pretty unlikeable character, but it is played with skill and aplomb!  This brings me of course to Ian McKellan.  If I had one on then I would take off my hat to him.  If I have half the stamina, physical prowess and energy of that man when I am 70 then I will be a happy man.  He is a legend.  It’s lovely too that he doesn’t steal the stage from his cohorts.  It is a rounded, bumbling, tragic, comic performance.

It’s worth seeing just for McKellan but that doesn’t do justice to the others.  All round it’s a very worthy piece, the set in it’s bare, bleak white setting is lovely, and the lighting by Paul Pyant supports this in an very touching and precise way.  I think it must be hard to create the distressed look in an interesting fashion but they have managed it.

It’s not an easy play to watch.  The tragedey is quite painful, but the team adds moments of lightness, (which have been panned by some), to bring some relief and I think that creates a more watchable spectacle.  I think this is very worth seeing.  Still though I advise knowing what you’re going to see in advance with Waiting For Godot.

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Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s a shame that so many people left early I thought the second half was considerably better than the first. I found Matthew Kelly all a bit much really, in many ways a great individual performance but totally dominating in that first half, to the detriment of the more subtle performances of the rest cast.

    Anyway glad to see your writing about theatre, keep it up.

    H

  2. He was particularly overwhelming, rather out of place with the others, I’m not sure I minded it so much, but I can’t disagree with you.


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