Vladimir speaks with speech………”They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”
Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire Languedoc-Roussillon
“to hold the terrible silence at bay”
Waiting for Godot
Vladimir speaks with speech………”They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” In the play, Vladimir is simply implying how short the time we have, from birth to grave and in-between we are, or we exist in knowledge.
“Waiting for Godot”, has been so completely analyzed from historical point of view, to Freud, to political views it would be absurd for myself to attempt any sort of structured diagramming. The plot centers entirely on two men. Beckett was defensive the play had to be cast of men only. Waiting for someone, “Godot”. Having never met Godot and for a reason neither Vladimir and Estragon can recall. In three acts the tragicomedy contains on revolving and repetitive themes and action. The most obvious is referenced……..Vladimir and Estragon alone with themselves, the two friends are visited by a master with a slave and the two friends find themselves alone and Godot is a no show.
Set in what is now a southern part of France, the countryside was originally named Roussillon. The arid climate today produces wine grapes, peaches, apricots and such. Until the 1930’s the region of Luberon was mined for ocher quarries to provide coloration for cloth. The area of Russillon Luberon is also know for its vast cedars and pines. Their greenery contrasting the red, orange and yellow ocher mines and crystal skies. It was here in 1942 the playwright Beckett fled from the invading and occupying Nazis, joining the French Resistance along with his girlfriend Suzanne. His identity as a Resistance fighter compromised, Samuel hid in a friend’s attic along with his friends’ father for nearly a year. The year prior Beckett had evaded capture by the Nazis, traveling the countryside of Luberon, wandering its fields, sleeping in barns accompanied by Suzanne, his companion in the Resistance. Both returned to Paris together when the Nazis were driven from France near the war’s end. Beckett’s’ writing career was soon to follow.
“Waiting for Godot” tends to follow a pattern most stark. Actor-to-actor, actor to audience (be spare here), lighting, which is mostly although shaded of sunlight or moonlight. The pattern is and I’ve tried to find a singular word to no avail is of ‘engage and disengage’ repetitively. The best instance is of two friends Vladimir and Estragon eating. A radish is produced, eaten. Nothing more. The beauty of the writing is not the characters in my opinion, nor the plot and stage movements, it is simply the beauty of its demand on actors to ‘act’. Critics and audience have rushed the aisles to leave a production of Godot, only to return ‘the next nights production’, heaving praise on the actors and Beckett, yet bewildering as it was the same performance, the same cast, the same production from the nights before.
Beckett once directed a production of Godot, lamenting he was a writer with no stage experience. He would imagine a scene for blocking in his mind, repeatedly tossing each one. By 1975 when he did direct Godot, his directing credits had provided him with hard earned experience. In his directing of Godot the major change or changes to the production mostly the elimination of lines, something of a ‘conservation of character’, a more austere production. Yet again and again, no matter the director or actors, the focus for me is the craft of acting. Frankly Godot as indicated by Beckett himself, I think not, but from his notes such as this……..’tragicomedy contains twenty-one requests for help: ’14 ignored, 4 answered, 1 attempted, 1 not known, 1 on condition et j’en passé’. It is the play taken in its entirety as a ‘cloud of acting’, where the production in whole is the end. Akin to musical notes progressing not as a scale, rather into melody. Reasoning for me the love of one nights performance and the battering of a next nights’ production.
And in the end, we wait and nothing happens, and we wait. Beckett was asked many a time who Godot was, obviously we need some insight as he is why we are here. Was Godot represented on stage? Colin Duckworth asked Beckett point-blank whether Pozzo was Godot, the author replied: ‘No. It is just implied in the text, but it’s not true’. Pozzo is the owner of Lucky the slave. Lucky as a character has a most difficult challenge, a six-minute monologue and here in the play it is either a rousing success or fop. Elements of rhythm rule the play, the characters and apparently the audiences’ approval or not!
My introduction to “Waiting for Godot began when I took a English course in college. Simply read and write something in a couple of hundred words about the play. I did read it, hit the libary to inquire about it, wrote something about it and forgot about it. And then one day it happened. A student trying to enter the fraternity Alpha Psi Omega, a theatre fraternity was performing on a school cafeteria table during the lunch hour. Bold and brave the newbie actor, playing two parts from a scene in Godot while juggling three balls. All I could remember thinking is ‘damn interesting’. But take the thought and expand by a factor of a hundred. No, not an epiphany, but the spark that remains. And too the young actor I am thankful, in hindsight he was pretty good on his deliverance. The years have passed and my appreciation of the play remains as strong now as then.
And in the end, we just wait. Quiet and then sound, the stage is light then dark. Hunger replaced by food as thoughts become speech…. Nothing happens. We wait………
Waiting on Godot