Venue: Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay (Sydney NSW), Nov 12 – Dec 21, 2013
Playwright: Samuel Beckett
Director: Andrew Upton
Actors: Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast, Luke Mullins
Andrew Upton was brought in last minute to direct Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting For Godot. The original director had taken ill, so the company’s artistic director steps up to the challenge, and, like a blessing in disguise, presents to us a skilfully crafted rendition of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece. The script’s absurdist nature, along with its surreal elements are retained, but the work lays emphasis on psychological validity, which allows for a more accessible reading and indeed, a very entertaining night at the theatre. Upton’s interpretation of Beckett’s words encourages his audience to reflect upon existentialist themes, such as death, memory, isolation, time, and of course, life itself. One would argue that Beckett’s script might be legendary, but when in the wrong hands, those themes easily become muddled and obtuse, In this case however, his ideas are intriguing and thought-provoking. There is still a sense of abstraction in Upton’s version of events, but the show provides excellent inspiration for a good intellectual work out.
The star studded cast does a great job of luring huge numbers of punters into the theatre, and they do more than their fair share of pleasing the crowds. Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh are truly brilliant. Their genius fills the auditorium, and we are privileged to witness their craft in motion. Of course, having such a rich text to play with does provide them with a solid platform on which to showcase the depth of their abilities, but they are both able to bring out so much life and meaning from it, and the level of poignancy they create in a single show is a remarkable achievement. Roxburgh is a surprisingly funny performer. His comic timing is impressive, and the laughter he creates prevents the show from developing overly dark. Weaving has the uncanny ability to make every utterance sound profound, and his use of silence and stillness to drive a point through is simply masterful.
Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting For Godot is a hit. As a theatrical production, it entertains and inspires; and as a work of art, it challenges and confounds. It gives you a guiding hand to hold on to, but will not give away all its secrets and mysteries. It strikes the balance between accessibility and wonderment, and leaves us with a better, more open (and thinking) mind.