When a self-confessed (young) comic duo take on two classic tragicomedy roles, you’re never going to please everyone. But then Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has always received mixed reactions, so perhaps a younger, funnier cast (directed by Simon Dormandy) will appeal to the masses.
Estragon (Tom Stourton) and Vladimir (Tom Palmer) are two ragged, homeless men who spend an evening waiting for the mythical Godot, the man who is going to change their lives and solve everything. But he never shows up. Other characters appear and this passes the men’s time. The following evening they wait, again. The same characters appear and yet again there is no sign of Godot. So they wait…
The set is very impressive, with real puddles (the audience found this out the hard way), mud and bricks, although the tree isn’t clearly visible from all angles, despite its symbolism. The actors use the stage well and get gradually dirtier as the play progresses.
The acting is mostly quite strong and Jonathan Oliver (Pozzo) is a remarkable performer, bringing a new (and dare one say it pleasantly different from Simon Callow’s) style to the character. Funny and poignant, the audience don’t know if they should despise or pity him and although the rapport between him and Michael Roberts isn’t blatant, there is an understanding between their two characters, which the audience can pick up on.
Totally Tom are funny and there’s no doubt that their comedy makes the audience (although not the critics) laugh. Some of it is a little predictable and silly – they decide to hang themselves with Estragon’s belt… and of course his trousers fall down – but the fact that the men are younger gives the story a new twist, for what could have befallen two so young? Have they stopped ageing because they’ve been waiting in this existential realm for so long?
The play is a bit on the long side (not least because the audience refused to settle down for Act II) as unsurprisingly there is a lot of waiting. However, it is a good re-imagining of a play that might just entice younger audiences to enjoy Beckett’s work.
Review by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Arcola Theatre, Studio One
24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL
020 7503 1646
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinées at 2.30pm
Thursday 15th May 2014