Radio Text Review: WAITING FOR GODOT

by Lynn on June 28, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following review was broadcast on Friday, June 28, 2013. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 fm. WAITING FOR GODOT at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Festival until September 20.

 The Host was Phil Taylor.


1)   It’s Friday morning and our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here with our weekly theatre fix.  Hi Lynn.


Hi Phil.


2)   So what do you have for us this week?


Just one play, which I saw last night at its opening at Stratford, WAITING FOR GODOT a towering play written by Samuel Beckett in 1954. Beckett was 51 when he wrote it and it brought him instant fame. It’s billed as a tragicomedy by Beckett and since 1954 it has been challenging and entertaining audiences all over the world.


3)   Who is Godot and who is waiting for him?


Two tramps named Estragon and Vladimir are doing the waiting. They have been waiting day after day for this man because Vladimir says they have to. Vladimir is the more philosophical and optimistic of the two.

The waiting seems futile. Perhaps that might be an apt description of life, but as Vladimir reasons, he has not tried all the possibilities for making things better so he is hopeful of something.

Estragon is the more pessimistic. His feet hurt and he struggles to remove his boots to see the problem. He’s hungry. He doesn’t know why they are waiting for this guy who never comes. He’s frustrated and overwhelmed with boredom. Together Vladimir and Estragon encourage each other. They have been together, enduring life, for about 50 years.

While they wait, two men come along. One is big and powerful named Pozzo. The other is Lucky and he is anything but. He has a rope around his neck, the other end is held tight by Pozzo. Lucky carries all sorts of stuff like a pack horse, and is treated as such by Pozzo, who sometimes calls him pig.

Lucky is exhausted from the labour, but when prodded bursts into an astonishing speech which seems like gibberish only to collapse after it finishes.

When these two people leave a young boy brings a message that Godot is not coming, but perhaps he will tomorrow. Who is Godot? It could be God and enlightenment. It could be death—Vladimir encourages Estragon to enjoy life while they wait.

Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie talked about a character as “that long delayed but always expected something that we live for. “ That could be a description of who Godot is.


4)   It sounds bleak.


The play is loaded with humour. Truly. Vladimir and Estragon have several routines they use to pass the time that are hilarious. In one instance they play at insulting each other by calling each other names like “moron” “vermin” and Estragon ends with a flamboyantly rolled “crrrrritic”, which stuns Vladimir so much that he nearly falls over. It’s one of the great speeches of this play and the audience gets it and loves it every time. Me especially.

When Waiting For Godot first opened in 1954, a critic said that it was a play in “which nothing happens twice” referring to both acts. Clever but really lacking in perception. Waiting for Godot is brimming with life, incident, character and heart.

There are two views of life with Vladimir the optimistic and Estragon the pessimistic. Together they co-operate and endure. There is kindness and generosity between the two.  We see the harshness of life with Pozzo and Lucky. At once Vladimir and Estragon feel sorry for Lucky but then ridicule him. This too is life.

But it’s that enduring that I think is so profound. Staying the course. Being true to the quest in a way, to wait for this guy to come. And it’s not clear what might happen if they left. But the waiting is everything.

Estragon has the first line and it’s typical of him: “Nothing to be done.” Vladimir shows Estragon for the rest of the play that there is plenty to be done.


5)   Tell us about the production.


The stage direction of where and when is classic Beckett: “A country road. A tree. Evening.” Director Jennifer Tarver has envisioned a tight, confined world for these people that so serves the play. And her superb design team has realized that vision: set by Teresa Przybylski , lighting by Kimberly Purtell, sound by Jesse Ash.

The road here looks more like a raised narrow plateau of rock surrounded by the suggestion of black water. These people are confined to this claustrophobic road that goes the length of the stage, but is so narrow there are few places they can wander.

 The clothes are filthy and worn. They wear boots with no socks. A creaky mechanism moves a makeshift moon above the stage to show the passage of time.

 Tarver realizes the humour and the gripping emotion of the piece and let me tell you it’s gripping and very moving as well.

 The cast is superb. As Estragon, the mournful, angry pessimist, Stephen Ouimette has a brow creased with the woe of the world. Nothing works right for him and he’s frustrated and angry at it all. But then he can see the humour of the moment by spitting out the word ‘critic’ and we double over.

 As mournful as Ouimette is as Estragon, he is matched by the thoughtful, almost cheerful work of Tom Rooney as Vladimir. Rooney is patient with this irascible Estragon, understanding and won’t let him go. This is fastidious work from both.

 As the hapless Lucky, Randy Hughson creates a man who is ground down with exhaustion from soul crushing work. Often he stands with his mouth open, drooling, too tired to swallow. But then he has that difficult speech that makes no sense, and Hughson delivers it as if the character is struggling to find the words that make sense to him. It’s like a kind of aphasia and it’s astonishing.

 As the overbearing Pozzo, Brian Dennehy brings a clear danger to the scenes. He’s a bully. He pulls on that rope around Lucky’s neck with glee. I do find that he often loses the clarity of his words when he bellows so it is hard to understand what he is saying.

 And as the boy who has to tell them that Godot is not coming, Ethan Ioannidis is sweet faced and charming

 Waiting For Godot is always a challenging play but I wouldn’t wait to see this production. It’s dandy.


Thanks Lynn. That was Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

 Waiting for Godot plays at the Stratford Festival until September 20.

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