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Emilie Collyer, who had an awesome piece in the latest Torpedo, has a creative, thoughtful and immediate kind of blog, between the cracks

- Literary Minded

Between the cracks is an ongoing collection of moments and observations, captured in words. Designed to give pause for thought, maybe a laugh or other kind of cerebral refreshment. I hope you enjoy.

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Words from between the cracks.

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Entries in Beckett (1)

Wednesday
Dec062017

On Waiting for Godot

“Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now?”

 

These words, uttered by Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot sprang out at me last night. Watching the Wits’ End production of this iconic play, currently on at the Eleventh Hour theatre in Fitzroy.

 

It’s a lovely production. Clearly made by people who love and understand Beckett. Yes there is the existential turmoil. The sense of having to carry on despite the absolute absurdity of being human. There is also tenderness. A kind of gentle co-dependence between the tramps.

 

But what struck me most about my experience last night was how strong the echoes of the Second World War are in this play. The devastation and destruction that seems to be just around the corner, to wherever Pozzo and Lucky are headed and from wherever they return, blind, mute and unable to remember where they were just the day before.

 

The tramps know something terrible has happened or is happening but they seem paralysed, unable to act. This doesn’t mean they don’t care. They are concerned about both Pozzo and Lucky and for each other. But they are waiting for Godot. A man with a beard who beats one servant and feeds another well enough.

 

How these themes resonate now. Still. Always. Did we sleep while others suffered? Are we sleeping now?

 

There is something poignant and prescient too about the cast in this production. Four white men, all older, all with grey hair and aging bodies. One blusters through with absolute assurance, whipping his beast of burden. He then returns, blinded and bewildered but carrying on nonetheless. Meanwhile two others watch on. They know they really should move on but they don’t know how.

 

I can’t imagine Beckett intended the play as an allegory for the demise of the patriarchy but something about last night spoke of this to me. Of the absurdity and the ongoing damage of violence inherited from those hungry for a certain kind of power. Of how that is completely unsustainable for humanity. Of how it is the ‘others’ who are now busy-busy and who are most definitely the way of the future (the active, activists, those non-white-haired-white-skinned-old-men). Meanwhile those men are bewildered. They have lost something and they don’t know what to do next.

 

It’s not that simple of course it’s not. Because men quite unlike Beckett’s characters are still in control of so much. Still perpetuating extreme violence on a grand scale. And it’s not those men who live in wake of current global devastations. It’s still the ‘others’.

 

But there was something for me in this piece. “Why don’t we hang ourselves?” About what might be sitting under the surface of all the angry men gripping so tightly to their positions of power right now. A sense of terror about what has happened (Yes, what you did or what you allowed, what you slept through) and even greater fear about what is to come. (Will there be a place for me, how will I know what to do, who will tell me?)

 

Many of us know it’s not Godot we are waiting for. Those tramps may well get left behind. I hope, in a sense, they do. Waiting for the ghost of authoritarian maleness while the rest of us step forward into new ways of being, new voices being heard, new structures to live by.

 

I love Beckett’s writing, the way it can lift and curl and take different forms depending on context. I didn’t expect Waiting for Godot to deliver this new vision of itself and of the world. This is why his writing persists, I think.

 

And also, much credit to this production that delivered the text with such a skilled and light hand. I have no idea if any of what I got from the last night was intended by director William Henderson and his team.

 

But this is what theatre can do at its best. Allow space for the audience to be in the room. To see what they see. To make new meaning of old words. To make way for new beginnings.

 

Waiting for Godot is on until Saturday 16 December at Eleventh Hour, 170 Leicester Street, Fitzroy. All details here.