You are on page 1of 4

Beckett on Film: Waiting for Godot

Producers: Michael Colgan, Alan Maloney Directed by: Michael Lindsey-Hogg Actors/Roles: Barry McGovern (Vladimir); Johnny Murphy (Estragon); Alan Stanford (Pozzo); Stephen Brennan (Lucky); Sam McGovern (A Boy) Type of Play: Tragic-Comedy, Absurdist Theatre Film Version Date: 2001 Theatre community purists may decry putting Samuel Becketts work on film. They could have a point. After all, a filmed adaptation of a work can be subject to a contrived interpretation by those creating the adaptation, hindering just what the audience will or will not be able to take from the production. However, thankfully, what this production of Waiting for Godot is best able to provide from Becketts work is a great deal of illumination, in the literal and artistic senses. Indeed, from the opening frames of the film, a physical sense of clarity that appears missing in the text is provided here. The choice for stage and setting, although true to the texts directions, still seems to contradict imagery hinted at within the pages. In reading the play, throughout its duration, it is difficult to shake the feeling that Vladimir,

Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky are either literally in the dark, or possibly marooned on the moon. While the film does portray the aspects of the characters isolation effectively within the setting, the use of fairly bright light and a blue-sky background do serve to open up the play tremendously. This works exceptionally well here, making the subsequent actions of the characters seem a lot freer and looser, and does not remove the viewer in any way from the central themes in the work. The text of a play is in reality merely an aid to performance, perhaps a little more so than the average stage prop is, but an aid all the same. The players bring a work its life and vitality. The sky is the limit in this adaptation because director Michael Lindsey-Hogg is able to call upon techniques simply not available on the stage to enhance action, effects of action, and themes within the play. The isolated close-ups of Lucky reveal quite clearly his despair, in his inescapable fate as Pozzos slave. While it is possible to convey this on stage, the isolating effect of the camera lens makes for less distraction by other stimuli and ironically provides a greater sense of intimacy with Luckyeven if his portrayer does not have the luxury of a reciprocal relationship with an audience. Such an effect also provides a platform for more in-depth study of Luckys facial quirks and nuances, which adds hefty weight to Stephen Brennans performance. Vladimirs monologues, as remarkably and masterfully rattled off by Barry McGovern, also serve this purpose: His isolation, as revealed through them, tangibly reinforces the tragic, existentialist bent of the plays text, in which human existence is depicted as a fruitless exerciselittle more than spending ones life waiting for something,

anything, to happen (in this case, Godots arrival) that never does (and all the nonsense that people are subjected, or subject themselves to, in the interim). This is powerful stuff from which the characters cannot even escape in suicide. The lads comedic failure in orchestrating their own hangingsBecketts winking, nodding, and perhaps weeping, to the very last curtain callcertainly calling to mind the plays fitting subtitle, A Tragicomedy in Two Acts. Indeed, one of the great ironies of human existence is that humor is very often the bedfellow of profound pain. In this filmed adaption, humor and pain abound, co-mingled and dependent upon one another as much as Vladimir and Estragon are to keep each other going as they wait in the wasteland created specifically for waitingand wasting. The interplay between McGovern as Vladimir and Johnny Murphy as Estragon is snappy, well-timed and brilliant for fleshing out the inherent farcical and comedic nature of the text. Alan Stanfords Pozzo is perfectly sneering and sinister, though one wonders if the filmmakers were playing upon something of an Irish nationalistic stereotype (the English bloke just has to be the baddie) in his casting. Stephen Brennan, in the role of Lucky, brings perhaps the greatest clarity to his performance, taking poor Lucky (irony!) from something of a soulless automaton in the text to a character of animation and pathos on screen. This rendering, in which the impossibility of behaviour seems completely possible in the existentialist framework, serves to make Beckett and his message more accessibleand much riper for rumination.

Tina L. Franklin Fall, 2010

Related Interests