Godot worth the wait

You must be at least this tall to ride.
You must be at least this tall to ride.

Waiting for Godot @ The Baby Grand

It sits on your chest like a heavy weight that won’t move, no matter how much you struggle. It weighs you down until you think you’re going to scream.

It’s a story of hopelessness and despair, a story of perspective, and of unending disappointment in an unforgiving world. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, a Single Thread Theatre Company production, was at once wonderful and horrid—just as it was meant to be. Punctuated by comic interplay between the characters and morose talk of suicide, from the beginning the play is both funny and sad.

Picture it: two men—Vladimir “Didi” (Alastair Forbes) and Estragon “Gogo” (Luke Davies)—waiting for this man, Godot, to show up and save them from their miserable existence. Of course, there was always a reason why Godot couldn’t make it and you know he’s never going to come, but still they wait ... and wait ...

and wait ...

Enter Pozzo (Mo Bock), a wealthy and forceful man carrying one end of a rope with the other end tied around the neck of his human slave, ironically named Lucky (Andrei Drooz). As the scene unfolds, Lucky is ordered to dance and to “think,” or spew nonsensical, intelligent-sounding verse, for the amusement of Didi, Gogo and Pozzo.

With feelings of despair and deep sadness, audience members waited for someone to step up and say what these characters were doing was wrong. By the end of the first act I was so angry that I almost left the theatre.

Still, I petulantly sat and watched act two begin, listening to several audience members laughing, all the while feeling an overwhelming anger, not only towards the story but toward the audience members for daring to laugh at such inhumanity. Eventually, I too had to laugh at what could only be intentional comic relief, but my laughter was a long time coming.

The second act presented an alternative view of the situation, in which Gogo, Didi and Lucky remain the same, but the authoritative Pozzo is now an old blind man. Pozzo is the helpless soul but Lucky, having been tortured, does not attempt any sort of emancipation from his master.

In the end, all that is decided is that Gogo and Didi will once again wait for Godot, their saviour—and yes, the parallels between God and Godot are that obvious.

Still, the production was enormously successful, despite some major flaws with the set design. The uneven, textured terrain extendeding in front of the darkened entrance to the theatre caused many people to stumble as they entered to take their seats. Possibly the greatest weakness with the set was the incident involving the falling sky during the first act, which had nothing to do with Chicken Little and everything to do with poor design and/or installation. The one saving grace for set designer Dan Rider was the use of brilliantly intertwined, large branches to create the illusion of a soaring tree. Combined with creative use of blue lighting, the stunning shadow of branches cast upon the backdrop had the theatre abuzz with compliments.

But the greatest compliments have to go to the actors. Luke Davies’ performance of Gogo was outstanding. The disenchantment, fear, frustration and suicidal tendencies that plagued his character were flawlessly and poignantly delivered.

With an elastic face, reminiscent of Jim Carrey, Alastair Forbes’ (Didi) seemingly endless facial expressions lent a comedic air to the production that was necessary to dispel some of the deep underlying sadness of the story.

Appearing courtesy of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, actor Mo Bock (Pozzo) was a commanding force who brought years of professional acting experience to this production. His booming voice and robust nature blended to create a wonderfully rich and commanding presence even in moments of helplessness.

When the panel of the sky fell and Forbes had appeared stunned, Bock’s experience shone through as he calmly and precisely asked the younger actor, “Fix the sky, will you?” which evoked a burst of laughter from the audience and effectively brushed the incident aside.

But there is a special place reserved in actor heaven for people like Andrei Drooz (Lucky). With a rope tied around his neck, Drooz played human slave to Bock’s Pozzo. At the mercy of his master who conditioned him into a ferocious and yet submissive being, Drooz stumbled around with legs bent at awkward angles. His head hung at extreme angles, his eyes rolling into the back of his head and his mouth agape, with each wheezing breath, Drooz swayed in an effort to keep himself upright. His portrayal of a physically and emotionally battered and beaten man was at once horrific and beautiful.

Weighing heavily on the mind and the soul, Waiting for Godot left the audience exhausted, drained, humbled and maybe, just maybe, feeling a little more blessed.

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