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Waiting for Godot review for Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol – ‘lilting camaraderie’

David Fielder and Colin O'Connor in Waiting for Godot at Tobacco Factory, Bristol. Photo: Mark Dawson David Fielder and Colin Connor in Waiting for Godot at Tobacco Factory, Bristol. Photo: Mark Dawson

Director Mark Rosenblatt’s new production of Waiting for Godot deals less in existential speculation and more in the friendship between two men pitted against fate.

As such, it loses the darkest, deadpan edges of Samuel Beckett’s writing, but succeeds in making the characters increasingly realistic rather than components of theatrical experimentalism.

Holding this approach together are strong performances from Colin Connor as Estragon and David Fielder as Vladimir. The latter exhibits an almost maternal warmth towards his friend, softly intoning that they are “waiting for Godot,” as though patiently looking out for the rural school bus to arrive.

In contrast to this lilting camaraderie, John Stahl’s Pozzo is a booming, disjointing visitor. Draped in a motley assemblage of tie-dye t-shirt, fake fur coat, pink trilby and trailing scarves, he looks like a relic from Glastonbury Festival circa 1984. The same could also be said for Estragon’s acid house smiley face sweatshirt.

Staged in the round, the cast scramble and rotate around Janet Bird’s slightly cramped set almost continually. During slapstick scenes of boot-changing or fighting with Chris Bianchi’s Lucky, this is a fun aspect. Yet by avoiding inertia, the interminableness of Beckett’s scenario isn’t fully communicated.

For a play where ‘nothing happens’, this production has a surprising amount going on. With old-school clowning, fisticuffs, and dressing-up box costumes to distract, those watching are never required to share in the gloom of two lost souls alone in the abyss.

 

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Verdict
Comedy and companionship are emphasised in a new production of Beckett’s most famous play
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