Bath Gets 50th Anniversary Godot, Transfer BlockedDate: 16 August 2005
Sir Peter Hall’s 50th anniversary revival of Samuel Beckett’s modern masterpiece Waiting for Godot - the final production in the director’s summer repertory season at the Theatre Royal Bath (See News, 15 Apr 2005) – starts performances tonight. But unless you get to Bath before 3 September 2005, when its limited season finishes, you may not get a chance to see it.
Hall had hoped to bring the production to the West End’s Arts Theatre, where he directed the English-language world premiere in 1955 when he was the theatre’s 25-year-old artistic director. However, a clash over the proposed transfer has led to an increasingly public spat between Hall and directors at the Barbican Centre and Dublin’s Gate Theatre, who currently jointly hold the London rights for a Beckett festival scheduled at the Barbican in 2006.
On several occasions, including a Whatsonstage.com Outing to his production of The Dresser earlier this year (See The Goss, 28 Feb 2005), Hall has attacked the organisations and their “act of supreme ungenerosity”. The Royal Shakespeare Company founder and former NT artistic director argues that a limited engagement at the 320-seat Arts is “hardly major competition. They wouldn’t even have a meeting to discuss it … Beckett would have been appalled."
However, the Gate’s artistic director Michael Colgan has hit back, accusing Hall of bullying. He claims that Hall was permitted to bring his production of Waiting for Godot to London up to 1 September 2005 but missed the deadline. He told the Independent that Beckett’s estate "do not want two productions on at the same time. You can’t just say I did the first production so I should be able to do it." He added: "He’s (Hall) coming on like a child with big tears coming out of his eyes, saying, 'This is terrible, nothing is happening' — but what is happening is that he is trying to bully us."
Insofar as the Arts is concerned, the transfer tussle may be a moot point as the theatre indefinitely – and perhaps permanently – closed its doors last month following an ongoing dispute with landlords over its management (See News, 1 Jul 2005). Hall is still pinning his hopes on reopening the venue for a special one-off performance of the Beckett tragi-comedy this autumn.
In Waiting for Godot, two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting on a deserted road. As they pass the time, they ask the question: “Will Mr Godot ever come?”. In the National Theatre’s NT2000 poll, theatre professionals voted Waiting for Godot the most significant English language play of the 20th century.
In Bath, James Laurenson is Vladimir and Alan Dobie reprises his performance as Estragon, which he played in Hall’s 1998 West End production of the play at the Piccadilly Theatre. They’re joined by Richard Dormer (Hurricane) as Lucky and Terence Rigby as Pozzo. Hall’s production is designed by Kevin Rigdon, with lighting by Peter Mumford.
- by Terri Paddock