Waiting for Godot
- Allan Radcliffe
- 2 April 2009
The prospect of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen sharing a stage as the leads in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is both thrilling and slightly intimidating. The two thesps have known each other since the mid-1970s when they were members of the Royal Shakespeare Company ensemble, and have between them won a huge international following for their roles in small and silver screen sci-fi phenomena Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and X-Men.
To add to the weight of expectation, Beckett’s 50-year-old play, about a pair of bowler-hatted tramps waiting on a country road by a tree for an enigmatic stranger who never appears, is perhaps the most discussed in recent theatrical history, with literary critics offering numerous wildly contrasting theories as to the significance of the characters and their predicament.
‘If I have one fear,’ says Stewart, ‘it’s that people might be intimidated by the play’s reputation. But there is nothing difficult about this play, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that every moment will have clarity for the audience.’ Sean Mathias’ production highlights the play’s verbal and physical comedy as well as the moments of tenderness between the two leads. ‘All the evidence in the script is that Vladimir and Estragon are old friends,’ says McKellen. ‘Patrick and I are the ideal age to be playing these parts. We’re still active, but, like Vladimir and Estragon, we know about aches and pains!'
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 13–Sat 18 Apr