I went to see Waiting for Godot in Sheffield’s Crucible last night. It was energetically mesmeric and I was gripped. Below is my review of the event:
Samuel Beckett’s minimalistic and thought-provoking play Waiting for Godot was brought to life once more on Saturday 13th February, 2016 in Sheffield’s Crucible in Yorkshire. According to the artistic director Daniel Evans, ‘this is the third Beckett production to be performed at the Crucible since 2011’.
Receiving its British première in 1955 in the Arts Theatre, London, Beckett’s play creates a bleak and limbo-like world in which the dwellers are neither inhabitants nor simply passing through. Waiting for Godot questions the absurdity of everyday life as its protagonists become caught up in a repetitive series of acts with no apparent point and which result in discussions about killing time and committing suicide (one is reminded of Albert Camus’s philosophical writing The Myth of Sisyphus). Adam Piette, professor of Modern Literature at the University of Sheffield, explains that ‘contemporary readings of the play concentrated on the existential bleakness, the philosophical nihilism: and zeroed in on the question of God.’
All who witness this production will no doubt sing the praises of director Charlotte Gwinner and her production team. The play was well-choreographed and all actors complemented each other in this Sheffield Theatres production. The whole show signalled the efforts of the production team. As an audience-member, it was hard not to empathize with Beckett’s four main characters: Pozzo, Vladimir, Lucky, and Estragon were executed with aplomb by Richard Cordery, Lorcan Cranitch, Bob Goody, and Jeff Rawle. Rawle successfully opened the play and drew the audience in with his portrayal of Estragon, described by Piette as ‘a creature of mime and body who plays with his feet’. Rawle’s acting was soon complemented by Cranitch’s engaging and quasi-realist portrayal of Vladimir, described by Piette as ‘idealistic, rational, a head man (watch him play with his hat).’Once immersed within the story of this comical double-act, the audience experiences a second: the characters of Pozzo and Lucky, described by Piette as ‘master / slave, tyrant / subject, sadist / masochist.’ Cordery was mesmerizing as Pozzo, and Goody demonstrated immense stamina in depicting the silent suffering of tormented Lucky.
The opening atmospheric soundscape of this particular production was ambient and, together with the scenic design, presented a captivatingly picturesque yet bleak sense of “nowhere-ness”. The scenery and lighting added to Beckett’s experimentation with the perception of time by being able to present night and day and different seasons with seeming minimalistic effortlessness. Costume design and makeup were both detailed and understated, both adhering to the minimalistic overview and bringing the plot to life. Designer Simon Daw successfully designed this scenery of Waiting for Godot, originally written to be performed in a Proscenium arch, to fit the specifics of Sheffield’s Crucible. He explains that he draws visual inspiration from surrealist imagery such as Yves Tanguy’s painting who ‘creates these amazing, very empty, almost apocalyptic landscapes with some very defined and detailed objects within them.’ When asked by assistant director Charlie Kennedy how one creates a ‘sense of infinity within an enclosed auditorium’, Daw explains that ‘the depth that you can use is fantastic but at the same time you have that intimacy that you don’t get in other spaces, and this brilliant sculptural relationship of having the audience on three sides.’ This brilliantly sums up the sensation one experiences when seeing this production of Beckett’s play in Sheffield’s Crucible: the set is both vast and portrays a lost place, yet the audience is very close to the characters and at once immersed within the plot.
Overall, this performance of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was captivating, thought-provoking, and effective. It is hard to imagine this play written for any other production team. It will inspire in anyone the desire to engage with more of Beckett’s work.
Highly recommended *****
All aforementioned quotes can be found in the programme note, available on the door for £3.50.
Waiting for Godot is being performed in Sheffield’s Crucible until 27th February. Tickets can be booked here.