Waiting for Godot - 2015 Reading Challenge
Some of you may know that my background before I went and did my MFA in Creative Writing was as a theatre major. It seems like forever ago (almost a decade actually -- yikes) that I went off to study being an actor, but I did. And I quickly learned that I absolutely loved absurdist theatre.
So, when I saw on the 2015 Reading Challenge checklist that I had to read a play, it was an easy choice for me. I was rarely willing to admit that I had never read Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, probably one of the most famous plays in the world that wasn't written by Bill Shakespeare. Being a 'theatre person' and never having read Waiting for Godot is kind of like being a movie buff and never having seen Apocalypse Now or Psycho. It's not absolutely imperative that you do, but people look at you a little funny when you admit you haven't.
Anyway, so I've finally remedied that, and I'm kicking myself for waiting for so long.
Granted, reading a play is never the same experience as watching it, and particularly with absurdist theatre, watching it is more than half the fun. I directed The Bald Sopranoby Eugene Ionesco (another absurdist play) for my final project in my senior year, and while it was a great read, nothing could have compared to seeing it. Something about having a group of talented actors bring a string of ridiculous non-sequitur to life is an experience that just can't be traded for sitting in a room, reading it from a book.
There have been thousands of interpretations of Samuel Beckett's masterpiece since its debut in 1953. Some think it's a play of philosophical musings or psychological delving. Others think it's a parody of the Cold War.
What do I think? I honestly don't know. The whole play is best summed up by one of its own lines:
Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful.
I do love a good bit of irony. Waiting for Godot is essentially about two men, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait by a tree for a man named Godot, who never shows. They wait for the entirety of the play, having occasional conversations and fights, once in a while being interrupted by a random visitor (Pozzo) and his slightly insane/absurdly loyal servant (Lucky). It's a play that is open to a million different types of performances and interpretations by both the audience and the actors, which is probably part of the reason it has remained so popular over the past 60 years.
The audience never finds out who Godot is or why Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for him. Estragon himself often forgets why they're there, and this line of dialogue happens around a dozen times throughout the show:
Estragon: Let's go.
Vladimir: We can't.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.
By way of review, there's not much I can really say. First, I hate reviewing plays without having seen them. Second, it's impossible for me to be objective when I love absurdist theatre and also feel almost a literary obligation to admire Samuel Beckett. However, even with all that bias going on, I really enjoyed reading this play and would definitely do so again. The conversation between all the players is snappy, quippy, and hilarious. The actions set out in the play are minimal, but enough that you can appreciate what is going on on stage just by reading it.
Even though I'm sure it's far better to watch it, I'm still glad I read it.
How about you? Do you ever read plays? What's your favorite? And have you seen Waiting for Godot?