Waiting for Godot is one of those classics of modernist literature that we studied at university. I clearly remember Professor Eunice going something on the lines of: “You lot seem like a fine bonny bunch. How come you all get this?” and us looking vaguely sheepish and proud.
The fact is that when you’re 21, there’s a lot of angst and the world is a dark place so nihilism appeals.
But I am no longer 21. There is, as ever, angst but not of the kind that needs to be swathed in black. And yet, watching the play being performed last night, so much resonated.
We studied how the ideological underpinnings of modern art and we appreciated the play when we read it as students but watching it, I was struck how the experience is so much like looking at an abstract painting. You are given only the bare bones of an idea or an impression but that means that it is just bursting with meaning. Before watching this play, I could only imagine how that sort of thing would work out in theatre and now I know.
It was a thrill to see an enactment one had only hitherto imagined. I took V and was interested to see how he would respond but it seemed the stars were not aligned for this one because first, we lost the tickets and then he came down with diarrhoea and basically had to leave within the first 20 minutes. Although he claimed he was enamoured of the bit he sat through, I have a feeling he would have enjoyed it had he not been feverish and stuck around.
As for this particular performance, it was excellent. In reading the play, we tended to focus on Didi and Gogo but in this rendition Lucky, of all characters, was a real star and then Pozzo. Maybe because I am reading a paper on the narratives of domestic helpers, the Lucky-Pozzo dynamic reminded me of the employer-helper relationship, how it has all the potential to and often does turn into variations of that theme and I wonder if others in the audience were squirming too.
Somewhat predictably, I also thought of Didi and Gogo’s relationship in terms of marriage. One of the most uplifting moments of the play is when Didi and Gogo embrace – a rare truly authentic expression in an existence characterised by performance. There was an audible awww from the high school students two rows in front of me.
Mostly though, the play reminded me of the amusingness of the human condition – how it is in the end just a search for meaning. I was reminded of so many people I know our age who are waiting for some sign that will tell them that they need to change their job, their life, their relationship but that sign never comes, just the hope of the sign sometimes does. If there is a moral to this play at all, it comes ironically from Pozzo and Lucky, who worse of than they ever were, say that when they fall down, they get just get back up again. In the end, that’s all the meaning we’re going to get.