The play that changed history

“Waiting for Godot,” A black comedy in two acts by Samuel Beckett, opens at the Key City Theatre Jan. 21

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett

For the Townsman

One of the most famous and controversial plays of modern times is taking to the community stage in Cranbrook this month, with the Key City Theatre’s presentation of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.”

“Waiting for Godot” has been voted the most significant English language play written in the 20th century. It seems simple enough, two characters, Estragon and Vladimir, waiting for someone called Godot. But as these two struggle through the agony of waiting, we see the frustration and hope we all experience as we all wait for our own “Godot”. Some of us hoping to win 6/49, or hoping to meet Mr. Right, or see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Through daily and annual disappointment we still continue to hope.

Samuel Beckett wrote his masterpiece shortly after the end of World War II; a war that ended with the nuclear destruction of two Japanese cities. Mankind now had and still has the means and ability to annihilate itself. In dealing with this new reality Beckett created a play that, in a sense, ‘nuked’ traditional theatre. He wrote a theatre piece that has no plot and little or no character development. It begins in no place and ends in nowhere. The world is turned upside down — the slave becomes the master, the rich become poor, the strong become impotent. But through this upheaval his characters struggle with the basic human issues of existence. Their struggle is our struggle. Their fears are our fears. “Waiting for Godot” drips with symbolism.

Peter Hall, who directed the debut English language version in London in 1955 (Beckett originally wrote the play in French), commented decades later how “Godot” revolutionized theatre.

“Waiting for Godot hasn’t dated at all,” Hall wrote in the Guardian. “It remains a poetic masterpiece transcending all barriers and all nationalities. It is the start of modern drama. It gave the theatre back its potency and its poetry.

“‘Godot” returned theatre to its metaphorical roots. It challenged and defeated a century of literal naturalism where a room was only considered a room if it was presented in full detail, with the fourth wall removed. Godot provided an empty stage, a tree and two figures who waited and survived. You imagined the rest.

“I thought it was blindingly original, turning the undramatic (waiting, doubt, perpetual uncertainty) into tense action. And it was very funny. It took the cross-talk tradition of music hall and made it into poetry.”

Paul Kershaw has worked with four of the five actors in “Waiting for Godot”  in previous productions.  Barry Borgstrom and PauI have worked together on at least 20 shows since his high school days.  Dave Prinn, Mark Casey and Barry Coulter have been involved in recent productions of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” “Twelfth Night” and MacBeth.”  They all have solid acting skills making them competent performers.

“Their greatest challenge in the preparation of the ‘Godot’ production has been the memory work load,” Kershaw said. ” They have each spent countless hours outside of a heavy rehearsal schedule committing lines to memory.”

The fifth member of our cast is 11 year old Austin McAra.   Austin’s youth brings a simple freshness to the play in that we all can learn from the straight forward honesty of a child. Austin’s extensive background in dance gives him a sense of security on stage which we all appreciate.

This five-man troupe is sure to delight Cranbrook audiences.

“Waiting for Godot,” directed by Paul Kershaw,  plays at Key City Theatre January 21-24 at 7:30 pm

Tickets are $20 and are available at the Box Office 250-426-7006 and online at www.keycitytheatre.com

Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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