Andrew Upton’s Sydney Theatre Company production of Samuel Beckett’s classic Waiting for Godot came to the Barbican as part of the International Beckett Season. I saw a production of the play at the Arcola Theatre last year, but was happy to see it again: there is still plenty to discover about this fascinating play.
Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving play Estragon and Vladimir, the hapless pair who wait by a bare tree for the mysterious Godot, who of course never turns up. Occasionally visited by Pozzo (Philip Quast) and his servant Lucky (Luke Mullins), the duo spend the rest of their time fighting, arguing, musing on life and their purpose in it, and a whole host of seemingly pointless actions that take on a poignant significance. All performances are strong, and affecting even within the cavernous Barbican space.
The set has been designed to resemble a derelict theatre as well as a bleak landscape, exploring the connections between the stage and life just as Shakespeare did four hundred years ago. It is striking, but the characters are not dwarfed in the space, and we still get a sense of intimacy: especially when Vladimir and Estragon perch at the front of the stage to talk to one another.
Beckett at his best is very funny, and this production makes the most of his humour, with perfect comic timing and delivery. The absurdity of the situation is beautifully explored, while the sense of the passage of time is ever-present. An excellent revival for newcomers to Beckett and longstanding fans alike.