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Waiting for Waiting for Godot review at St James Theatre, London – ‘fun but frivolous’

Simon Day and James Marlowe in Waiting for Waiting for Godot at St James Theatre, London. Photo: Andy Tyler Simon Day and James Marlowe in Waiting for Waiting for Godot at St James Theatre, London. Photo: Andy Tyler

A gentle farce enlivened by snappy exchanges and absurdist silliness, Waiting for Waiting for Godot describes the existential plight of two understudies eager for a chance to perform.

James Marlowe’s clueless newcomer Val has high hopes and irrepressible enthusiasm. At one point, he breaks into a spirited version of There’s No Business Like Show Business while dancing with a plastic flamingo.

Simon Day plays pompous luvvie Ester, armed with rumbling diction, a slew of drama school exercises and a particularly fine impression of “Marlon Brando as a Gorilla”.

Between daft set pieces and meaningful pauses, they ponder their reasons for working in the theatre industry – or “the biz” as they obnoxiously refer to it.

Laura Kirman has little to do as a confrontational stage manager, storming in only in the last moments of each act. She makes the most of a dramatic reading of the fictive production’s cue sheet, though, her character’s way of proving that “anyone can act”.

The set – designed by Sophia Simensky – recreates a familiar backstage room, nicely cluttered with moth-eaten costumes, forgotten props and the mandatory dismembered mannequin.

Depicting tedium on stage is always a risk, but director Mark Bell manages to keep things moving, giving his performers purpose throughout even the most protracted silence. Bell worked with both Kirman and Marlowe on the wildly successful The Play That Goes Wrong. While this show may be comparatively lacking in frenetic inventiveness, its wit and abundant charm make it an entertaining way to pass the time.

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UK premiere of US playwright Dave Hanson’s fun but frivolous absurdist comedy