There are remarkable milestones in the life of any theatre critic, and we all hope that the majority will be positive ones. This is the case with Talawa Theatre Company’s current touring production of Waiting For Godot, produced in conjunction with West Yorkshire Playhouse.
In all fairness, it must be pointed out that, during four different productions of the play over the years, I have snored through three of them. It’s a difficult piece to stage; if the audience isn’t engaged immediately then it can make for a very tedious two-and-a-half hours.
However, that’s by no means the case with this outing. Ian Brown’s stellar cast grips the audience immediately and draws them into a carefully crafted universe. Samuel Beckett’s text has a poetic ambience to it anyway, but the addition of thick Caribbean accents infinitely lifts the dialogue and hands it to the audience on a plate in razor-sharp measure.
Beyond two men awaiting the arrival of an unseen third, Beckett didn’t give Waiting For Godot much of a plot. The attraction is the interaction – or lack of it – between its five characters who inhabit a nether world, perhaps a dream-state, in which time is not linear and memories are fragmented.
Paul Wills has created a stark world comprising a fractured mentality of a set where a single austere tree erupts through an equally severe sidewalk, suggestive of the reassertion of nature over civilisation. Chris Davey’s subtle lighting plot adds to the dystrophic feel – a real triumph of simple staging.
As protagonists Vladimir and Estragon, Jeffery Kissoon and Patrick Robinson turn in utterly consummate performance (Kissoon’s one fluffed line was easily forgiven for the slick recovery that followed). This is very much an ensemble piece with equally accomplished work being delivered by Cornell S John as Pozzo, Guy Burgess as the ironically-named Lucky, and Fisayo Akinade as The Boy.
A short outing for this quirky, mesmerising production, but it's one that should not be missed.