Reading’s resident professional theatre company, Reading Rep have chosen to end their 2013/14 season with ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot premiered in 1953 and 60 years later it is a classic play that most people have heard of even if they haven’t seen.
As with all Reading Rep productions the stage, designed by Victoria Spearing, is simple which captures the timelessness of the piece. The characters could be in any country at any time.
The actors use the space brilliantly. A pile of sand and a dead tree transport us to the waste land they inhabit as they wait and wait.
Past Rep audiences will recognise the two main actors from previous productions. Vladimir is played by Rick Romero who brought the house down as Gabriel and Herod in ‘The Nativity Play That Goes Wrong’. Kyle Fraser is Estragon, who appeared as Hal earlier this year in ‘Proof’.
We know nothing about Vladimir and Estragon at the start of the play and little by the end. They have been together for 20 years and spend each day arguing, protecting each other, loving and hating each other, wanting to be alone but not having the courage to break their relationship.
There are tender moments in the play such as when Vladimir sings a lullaby to his friend who wants to sleep and he gives up his coat to keep his sleeping friend warm. A short time later though, the pair are arguing again.
Vladimir and Estragon are locked into a cycle they cannot get out of and as we see them waiting for Godot and waiting for nightfall we realise they never learn any lessons from their experiences and so are destined to repeat this endless cycle.
The arrival of Pozzo, played with dynamism by Stephen Macaulay and Lucky, Brian Tynan, is cause for entertainment and alarm. Pozzo treats Lucky as a slave being tied to his master with a length of rope and made to carry out demeaning and unnecessary tasks.
After the interval Act Two starts with the scenery subtly changed It’s the same and not the same just as the return of Pozzo and Lucky are the same but different. Yesterday is a far away land, conversations are repeated and no-one is sure what really happened because no-one remembers.
There is a mix of drama, comedy, tragedy and mystery. We wait for Godot who is going to mysteriously save the pair. How and from what we don’t know. They wait and wait and he never turns up but they are scared to leave because Godot would punish them.
Only the arrival of Ashley Cousins as Boy confirms that Godot exists but when Boy returns in Act Two only Vladimir can remember his previous visit.
This timeless play still has a lot to say and once again Reading Rep have pulled out all the stops. This season’s plays have entertained, thrilled and challenged and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Waiting for Godot is directed by Paul Stacey and is suitable for an audience of 12+ years. It will run until August 30 at Reading College Theatre, Kings Road, Reading, RG1 4HJ
Tickets are £12 and concessions are available.
For more details, see readingrep.com or call the box office on 0118 960 6060.