Theatre: Waiting for Godot
Helena Pike thinks that this production is a must-see
by Helena Pike
Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 15:31 BST
Hats off to Charlie Parham, is all I can say. His rendition of what is arguably the greatest work from one of the greatest playwrights of the last century is truly masterful – surely the efforts of someone far beyond his years. The whole production oozes precision and an eagle eye for detail. Every pause is fully exploited, endlessly creating and breaking down intriguing tableaus between the characters. Nobody missed a beat, even with the dialogue flying left, right and centre and the comedy derived from the physicality of the piece is boundless, due no doubt to the meticulousness with which it is executed. There were moments when Vladimir (Jack Hudson) and Estragon (Theo Hughes-Morgan) seemed to move and speak as if with one breath, perfectly in sync.
As for his decision to pitch the world-weary duo as young souls – this is a stroke of, perhaps daring, genius that undoubtedly pays off. Ageless though they might be, there has been an emerging trend to portray the pair as if on their last legs and, as anybody who saw King Lear is aware, neither Hudson nor Hughes-Morgan has any issue with playing old. Nonetheless, they both revel in their light-footed youth. Hughes-Morgan excels as the petulant, sulky Estragon, brimming with snarky quips, with Hudson taking the almost wise-before-his-years role. His Vladimir constantly flickers between a sort of desperately protective older brother and the puppyish, bounding playmate of his companion, eventually giving way to a more morose, frustrated realisation of reality that tugs on the audience’s emotions. Together Hudson and Hughes-Morgan have literally breathed life into this immortal double act. Their playful time-wasting is both endearing and utterly amusing and it is with wide eyes and school boy curiosity that they regard and inspect the new characters that come barging into their lives, in the form of Pozzo (Edward Eustace) and Lucky (Guy Woolf).
Here, once again, Parham must be applauded for allowing Eustace and Woolf to wholly and completely take centre stage during the first act. Eustace is a revelation as the snarling Pozzo: part villainous caricature, part obsequious gentleman, wholly terrifying and mesmerising all at once. I was unable to take my eyes off of him as alternately barked threats and addressed his captive audience (both on and off stage) in oily tones with a bipolar unpredictability. With an endless supply of disarmingly inhuman facial tics, Eustace raised Pozzo to a creature of such fascination that I didn’t ever want him to leave the stage. His presence in the second act, for obvious and unavoidable reasons, is less all-consuming. This is to the productions merit, however, as it allows both for Vladimir and Estragon to take their turn in centre stage and, simultaneously, to reinforce and emphasise his previous temperament.
As for Woolf, the first thing that must be said is of his makeup. I cannot begin to describe it but, needless to say, he is barely recognisable as a human, let alone a student. A particularly nice touch was the especially disturbing clouded contact lenses, which added wonderfully to his initial blankness. As for his performance, his physicality was pitch perfect. You could almost here him creak with each wheezy movement and his appearance was one of such frailty and decay, you almost thought he might crumble at any moment. His speech too was particularly brilliant, the slow, disjointed start echoing the performance of a broken, rusty record player and perfectly compounding the sentiment of his owner’s complaint that he used to think ‘beautifully’. Equally well-executed by all of his listeners, as each syllable seemed to cause Pozzo greater physical pain, Woolf seemed to regain or rediscover some remaining vitality, and his subsequent collapse appears indicative of the total expense of all energy and life.
All in all, Parham’s production is elegant, amusing, emotional and, crucially, not to be missed under any circumstance.