Review: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, until September 23

Richard Heap, left, and Peter Cadden in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at Bury St Edmunds Theatr

Richard Heap, left, and Peter Cadden in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal - Credit: Archant

If you want an intriguing and engaging night at the theatre than you could do much worse than joining two hapless men Waiting For Godot. Samuel Beckett’s absurdist comic drama remains one of the great plays of the 20th century. It is amusing, confusing, moving and ridiculous but it needs to be played with a very light touch if it is to work its magic on an audience.

Thankfully director Michael Cabot knows exactly what is required and delivers a well-honed, nicely engaging production which relishes in Beckett’s surrealism and dream-like narrative structure.

Vladimir and Estragon tip their hats to the notion that Laurel and Hardy were the inspiration for their characters but don’t linger over the association. In the assured hands of Peter Cadden (Vladimir) and Richard Heap (Estragon) we see that this pair of eloquent vagrants take a perverse delight in winding one another up which helps to make sense of Beckett’s sudden changes in tone and the emotional re-orientation of scenes.

At times, the pair behave like an old married couple and it’s clear they are very attached to one another – despite their constant bickering.

Jonathan Ashley as Pozzo and Michael Keane as his bound servant Lucky give the increasingly surreal scenario a darker, more absurdist edge which gives the humour an added sense of danger.

The evocative setting by designer Bek Palmer resembles a swamp-like wasteland with a trio of mangled trees rising up out of the water surrounded by a maze of stepping stones which allow the characters to cross the stage.

An array of tarnished mirrors with faded gilt frames line the back of stage cloaked in a fine smokey haze which gives the whole production a bizarre dreamlike quality.

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Cabot keeps the production moving and at just over 90 minutes, it doesn’t out-stay its welcome. The meaning behind the play isn’t any clearer than when it was written but it remains just as entertaining – and more importantly, just as entertaining.

Andrew Clarke