So nothing really happens, two guys just stand around talking to each other, and there aren’t any memorable lines. What exactly is it then that makes it so fantastic?
You’d have to see it and watch actors bring the characters and the situation to life. Although obviously you may not find it very fantastic then, either. If it’s a good production and it clicks with you, you may find it to be a memorable look at the meaningless of life or loneliness or a bunch of other things, because the meaning is very, very much up for interpretation. If it doesn’t work, I have no doubt you’ll be bored. Perhaps excruciatingly bored.
You know that saying about how, in music, the pauses between the notes give the notes their meaning? That applies to this play also. It’s so weird that reading it really doesn’t give you the meaning. Beckett’s plays are full of pauses, too.
And it’s true, there really aren’t any memorable lines. About the best I can do is
“We’re waiting for Godot.”
Forgot to mention in my earlier post, I too have seen it several times. However, the best (in a sick way) version I saw was in a college production where one of the actors didn’t quite remember his lines and kept throwing them back to the same scene over and over again…you could see the other actor getting more and more pissed every time they had to go back to that scene.
By about the fourth time, the audience was giggling loudly and the poor actor who was stumped for the next line was dying a thousand deaths on stage. I believe the director finally came out and fed him the correct line so they could move on.
I find this statement to be baffling. Hamletmachine is a opaque work that hasn’t gained mainstream traction. Hell, stick to Beckett and Endgame is an opaque work that hasn’t gained too much traction with mainstream audiences.
I can’t remember a season in Los Angeles that didn’t have a production of Godot going on somewhere, and every company I have ever worked with (that doesn’t solely produce original pieces) has done Godot. It is as classic a work of modern theater as Death of a Salesman.
I am way out of touch with the non theatrical community.
Godot is groundbreakingly important to modern theater because it is so accesable. If you ever have a chance to see a good production (live please, even the best movie versions are only mediocre) go see it. It’s fantastic.
I like it. I finally read it a few years ago to see what the fuss was about.
To me, a massive amount hinges on whether the shoes found in the second act are in fact new and different shoes. The script does not make it clear one way or the other.
I can’t locate my copy at the moment. So I can’t back this up with cites. But, IMO Vladimir and Estragon are lovers. One ( I don’t remember which) has recently given a urinary infection to the other.
I sometimes have the nigh irresistible urge to put on a chaffeur’s uniform and head down to the airport with a big sign reading GODOT.
Er . . . wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this interpretation before. Fascinating.
According to a biography I was reading, he hated the first French production so much he threaten to sue them, but apparently it closed before he got the chance to do so. He refused to authorize an American version for the longest time. The first major American production of the play was done with Burt Lahr who Burt Lahred it up rather badly and while it was indeed made into a film with him, there was more Lahr than Beckett at times.
My experience with the play is, it is not for those that like plot or character driven theather. It is more concept driven with the concept being kind of vague. I read the play again while I was studying Zen on an island off the west coast of Japan thinking I might find it (the play) there. And I must admit the play is kind of like irritating Zen in many ways.
You are missing the best part of the story, this was Beckett’s prefered version! He requested Lahr and LIKED that it was played as a comedy. That is what annoyed him about the Frech production, they missed the humor.
No cite, I am at work and don’t have any of my books with me.
I wrote my master’s thesis on Beckett. I stuck mainly to the short plays that haven’t been covered to death (“What Where” is my favorite), but of course I’ve read and seen Godot many times.
No, it’s not just weird for the sake of being weird. Yes, it has Big Points to make. It’s not as open and obvious about its message as your typical episode of The Facts of Life, and that’s what makes it rewarding. The set and the dialogue are spare and economical; Beckett’s not going to have a character use three words when two will do. (His novels are exactly the opposite, by the way.)
It’s also a tremendously funny play, which seems to be overlooked pretty often. The humor is mostly broad slapstick straight out of vaudeville, which is why the movie version mentioned by ultrafilter starring Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel is the best I’ve seen. There was a box set called Beckett on Film that came out a few years ago, containing a version of Godot which, despite starring Barry McGovern and Johnny Murphy, was near-unwatchable, because the director obviously had no idea that there’s anything funny in the play. (The version of Krapp’s Last Tape with John Hurt was terrific.)
Funny story about Godot: When it first opened, reactions were, to put it charitably, mixed. A lot of critics hated it and walked out in disgust. And then someone staged it in a prison in (I think) California; I don’t know why this high-minded, then-avant-garde play was chosen for a prison. Maybe it was because it had no female roles.
But the prisoners absolutely loved it. The inmates’ newsletter raved about it, and discussed how nuts the inmates went over it.
Best guess as to why: Prisoners understand waiting better than most of us ever will.
Anyway: It’s definitely a play that will be a lot more rewarding if you watch it once, then do some reading about it, then watch it again.
There’s also the Waiting for Godot in New Orleans project - setting the play amongst the ruins of the Ninth Ward.
Directors have to be very careful with this play - pacing is EVERYTHING, and if you emphasize the pauses too much it hurts the show. The last production of this that I saw was at a theatre conference a couple of years ago, and they fell into this trap. When you have a dedicated audience of theatre people walking out because the show is dragging, that’s not a good sign.
Other people have covered the play nicely, so once you get Beckett through this play I just have to offer this great onion article.
I was thinking about picking this up, but I’m kinda weary given the price. Is it worth the money?
That is hilarious.
Endgame is the only other Beckett play I’ve seen. I actually found it a bit tedious compared to Godot.
I really liked “Waiting for Godot” having had to read it once for English class.
Then again, I REALLY REALLY liked the movie “Clerks” and found it in a similar vein (pauses waits for the high society people to stop convulsing having compared Beckett to Kevin Smith).
But two characters sitting around and just shooting the shit? That’s fun and interesting to me. I like that sort of thing, and even though Godot was written for a much different time, I liked what it was doing, and I found it enjoyable. Same thing with Clerks. : shrug: YMMV though.
The play does have some good lines. The only one I can remember off the top of my head is “We are all born mad. Some remain so.” But there are others…my copy is in storage right now, but I have to go dig it out tomorrow for one of my classes, so I’ll try to come back with some more of my favorite lines.
Lucky’s speech is made of awesome. I performed it in a speech class I took a few years ago and it was probably the most fun I’ve had doing public speaking. Well, except that time I talked for fifty minutes about themes of mother/daughter incest in the poetry of Anne Sexton. But Lucky’s speech is a very close #2.
Depends how hardcore a fan you are. Some of it is great: Krapp’s Last Tape, Play, and they did something really, really cool with Breath, which I wouldn’t have thought possible. Endgame was pretty good too, but that’s my favorite of the longer plays anyway.
The real showstopper was Catastrophe, starring John Gielgud, Harold Pinter, and Rebecca Pidgeon, and directed by David Mamet.
Worth the price, though? Probably not, just because the price is so damn steep.
Interestingly enough, Smith references Godot in Chasing Amy, at the beginning when a fanboy calls their comic characters “Bill & Ted meets Cheech & Chong,” the artist responds “Actually I like to think of them more as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern meet Vladimir & Estragon.”
I love WFG, even though I’ve only read it and never seen it. I don’t see how people can miss the humor, it made me laugh out loud several times. Not only is it funny, but it’s thought-provoking, moving, and beautiful. Definitely not something I’d recommend to everyone though.
See this is what I am really getting at. Shouldn’t “the most significant English language play of the 20th century” at least have SOMETHING that everyone can get into? I have no problem with plays (or any form of art for that matter) trying to take the higher ground, defying conventions, challenging the viewer etc, but I kinda think the REALLY great works are the things that do all that and still manage to bring in the rest of the crowd.
The play isn’t very literal - that can be hard to get over if you’re looking for a real plot or story. What little plot there is, is really just scenery for what is a sort of philosophical metaphorical dialogue. For some reason it reminds me a little bit of Rosencratz and Gildenstern (sp?) Are Dead. There was at least one film version that I’m aware of, I took a very unique course* on Beckett and we watched it, but it was fairly old and in black and white. For what it’s worth, most of Beckett’s other stuff is equally stark, non literal, metaphorical, philosophical, etc. It’s best to view his plays as the theatrical equivalent of an experimental independent film.
*Our University had a course in which we explored Beckett’s works in preparation of creating a theatrical production/experience called “BeckettSpace” the following semester. We chose about 9 of his works (all shorts except Godot) and created new versions with the same text but enhanced with various technology. They were all performed simultaneously throughout the theater space (which was larger since there was no audience seating), and people were free to walk from one to another in whatever order they preferred. One in which three actors converse with only their heads shown coming out of boxes were instead displayed projected on three spheres. One in which there was four performers walking in a particular pattern within a square was turned into a series of LED lights hanging from the ceiling blinking on and off in the same pattern as the performers would have walked. For Godot, we had a small platform divide into three parts, with a camera suspended from the ceiling connected to a computer - movement in each of these areas would trigger dialogue from the movie - one from each actor and a third for various critics. It would alternate between free time in which the audience could play around on it, and a choreograph piece using three performers holding chairs.