You know, there is something very exciting about having booked a play several weeks in advance. You do look forward to it. It wasn’t a very special night out for us. We didn’t dress up, do a fancy dinner, or anything like that. In the end, we were rushing to get from Richmond into the City, and we had the quickest dinner ever before rushing off to the theatre. Nonetheless, it was still a treat, and when we finally sat in our seat, I was very glad to have been so organised and booked these really great seats.
The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a really lovely theatre. I was amazed at the intricate design of the theatre and its ornate carvings. We were seated in Row J, which on the map of seats looked really far away. But we were no more than 5 metres from the stage. Spitting distance really. Oh, to spit at Jean-Luc Picard. Hubby and I had no idea what we were in for. Apparently, this play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett has been read by everyone else in the world, except us. We’ve had missed responses, like “oh, it’s absolutely wonderful” and “it’s post-modern play on blah-blah-blah”. (Really, the blah-blah-blah is where I tune out.) Okay, I’m really shallow. All I wanted to see was Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in action. To be honest, no one could tell us what the play was about. Most people didn’t understand it (and said so), or said it was a play about nothing, it was boring, it was 2 tramps and a tree etc. I really liked the one about it being a play about nothing. It reminded me of Seinfeld, and I did so enjoy Seinfeld.
So, we have very little expectation.
The set. The set for a stage with one tree was done really well. It was a tree growing in the middle of some old building ruins. And with lighting, it made for an interesting scene. Much better than the one I had imagined in my head.
Could I explain to you what the first half was about? Not really. Truly, it was a bunch of people talking about nothing. But you know, it’s not an unfamiliar conversation. And did I get bored at some point? You betcha. The couple on either side of us clearly thought so, coz they did not come back after the first half. Or maybe it was us. See, I think the whole point is that we were meant to get quite bored. We think our conversation is interesting, but quite frankly we can get very boring. We are definitely not as interesting as we think we are. So the people who left missed that, I think. And also, they missed the second half, which I think was much better than the first because it started to pull the play together.
So what is it about? I think it can be anything you want it to be. Gogo and Didi could represent mankind, sitting around talking about nothing and waiting for life to happen. They do nothing, and when they decide to do something, they take ages actually deciding to do it. In fact, the conversation was as mundane as two drunks talking about philosophy etc. Was Didi neurotic? Probably. He sees a child that I think Gogo doesn’t. But yet in his own way, Didi finds something to stay positive and Gogo is a real grump. Anyway, the play is a whole stream of consciousness conversation, and quite frankly, the conversation is meaningless. But that, I think, is the whole point.
And what of the actors? They are so very, very good. And to me, they made the play even more interesting. Not done well, I can really see the play being terribly boring. Ian McKellan is superb as the tramp. He had all the twitches and movement of an old man. He looked smelly. I would’ve given him a wide berth in the street. Patrick Stewart was very good too. But there’s something in his voice that still reminded me of Jean-Luc Picard. I half expected the holodeck game to end, and him to be back in his uniform on the Starship Enterprise. Ian McKellan, by comparison, did not remind me of any of the characters he had played before – not Gandalf, and not Magneto. But after a while, you stop thinking about them and the previous parts that they played, and they were just two trampy characters on stage with not much to live for, but for each other.
And this is one of the great things of being in London – it is that you can access plays performed by fabulous actors such as these, and say that you’ve been in the same room as them, albeit with a thousand other people, but in the same room nonetheless. That’s quite cool, really.