Waiting for Godot (4 stars)

Brian Cox and Bill Paterson dazzle and delight in Beckett's masterpiece

Waiting for Godot

Bill Paterson and Brian Cox in Waiting for Godot at the Lyceum, Edinburgh / credit: Alan McCredie

Once described by critic and columnist Bernard Levin as 'a really remarkable piece of twaddle', Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot has since been recognised as one of the greatest plays of the 20th century and a landmark in the history of the theatre. With this in mind, it is of little surprise that this rather remarkable piece of work was chosen to kick off the Lyceum company's 50th anniversary season.

Helmed by outgoing artistic director Mark Thomson, it's a blackly comic, thoughtful and often affecting production that's accentuated by a mesmerising, sparse set from designer Michael Taylor. And with former company members done good Brian Cox (Rushmore, The Bourne Identity, Bob Servant) and Bill Paterson (Doctor Who, Outlander) in the lead roles, it feels like a momentous night for the Edinburgh theatre.

Two men, Vladimir and Estragon, meet near a tree where they wait for someone named Godot who never seems to arrive. While waiting for this elusive character, they converse over various topics and ponder the meaning of their existence in a life that appears to have no meaning or direction.

Cox and Paterson are glorious in roles that channel a bleak version of Laurel and Hardy in both appearance and persona, bringing energy and life to characters that we perhaps thought we had gotten to know as well as we could. The supporting cast are all superb and wonderfully weird, but it is Cox that much of the audience is here to see and he certainly does not disappoint.

It is a perhaps a more comic and clown inspired interpretation of Godot than many that have gone before it, with the laughs rolling out from the audience from beginning to end with barely a pause for breath. Yet in spite of all this, the play never loses its sense of profundity, mystery and sadness, proving that, 60 years after its premiere in Paris, Beckett's masterpiece is still as thought-provoking, controversial and brilliant as ever.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 10 Oct.

Waiting For Godot

  • Directed by: Mark Thomson
  • Written by: Samuel Beckett

Brian Cox and Bill Paterson star as Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's masterly black comedy.


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