Patience is a virtue, we are told. Certainly it’s one of many virtues that Druid Theatre Company extoll in this splendid foray into Beckett country. In tackling this landmark of 20th century theatre, director Garry Hynes perfects one tactic in particular — she takes time into account in a simple but captivating way. In Druid’s Godot everything takes time. The removal of boots. The unravelling of Biblical riddles. The mathematics of ending it all. These things take time.
Similarly, while they make a splendid vaudevillian double-act, Vladimir (Marty Rea) and Estragon (Aaron Monaghan) do not merely tee up lines for one another. No matter how familiar or repetitive their refrains become, their lines are invested with the palpable and tender strains of human life, howsoever enervated. In this way, Druid manage to reinvigorate the grim (anti)drama, the absurd comedy, and the weird, unlikely dignity of Beckett’s kooky scenario.
Of course, if you slow time down, then you can quicken it up again. As such, the play’s two companions — fated to abide forever in Beckett’s liminal limbo — do occasionally find themselves caught-up in honest-to-goodness ‘events’. When the bizarre Pozzo and Lucky turn up, time thickens, and the audience feels it as much as our two poor existential heroes do.
Rory Nolan’s extravagant Pozzo is a little overblown, but his excessiveness locates him firmly in a past tradition of popular theatre, just as Gareth Lombard’s cryptic turn as Lucky calls to mind the spectres of German Expressionism. (The theatre hereby perpetuates itself — perpetuating itself even to exhaustion.)
Hynes mines the comedy expertly throughout, but she doesn’t shirk from the play’s grimness or its abstraction. There’s a paranoiac metaphysics bleeding right through the play, and Rea’s Vladimir conveys this with tremendous sensitivity. Meanwhile, Francis O’Connor’s set design is fantastic, decking out the stage in a façade of cracked, arid rock, against which a tree composed of sally-rod and a large egg-shaped stone produce complex images of decay and renewal.