Theatre review: Waiting for Godot, Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Druid’s staging of Beckett’s pre-eminent classic was the actors’ idea, and, looking at the play, it’s easy to see why it seemed like a good idea to Aaron Monaghan, Garrett Lombard, Marty Rea, and Rory Nolan. 

Theatre review: Waiting for Godot, Abbey Theatre, Dublin

They are an experienced ensemble, whose familiarity with one another is telling. Their suitability to their roles, however, is varied.

Nolan’s Pozzo is a triumph. He is an hysterical monster, yes, but when he delivers iconically Beckettian lines (such as “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night again”) with an existential howl, we can feel his pain. Lombard, meanwhile, rises to the unique challenges of playing Lucky, without perhaps transcending them.

As Vladimir and Estragon, Rea and Monaghan are opposites in the best comic tradition: Rea thin, upright and proper, Monaghan querulous of brow, and bent of back. Physically and technically, Rea and Monaghan are almost balletic together, but Rea is far too jaunty as Vladimir.

He carries too lightly the toll of his existence. Monaghan, meanwhile, gives little impression of interiority. When he admits he was a poet, gesturing to his rags and saying, “Isn’t it obvious?”, it is anything but.

Sometimes, by refusing the obvious laugh, or underplaying some of Beckett’s most familiar and theatrical jokes, Hynes repeatedly finds ways to reinvigorate the familiar routines of the Didi-Gogo double act.

It is a fine achievement, and what emerges is a play with a curiously warm heart. It’s cold out there, it’s an uncaring universe, but at least we have each other, she suggests. That defiance is a part of Beckett’s vision, true, but a little too much of the gloom is lifted in this production for it to be truly definitive.

Francis O’Connor’s set deserves mention. Cracked like a dried-out river bed, it is beautiful and sparse. The moon is an absurd touch, like a huge, floating marble; the rock smooth as an egg; the tree, a sculpture of boat nails.

  • Runs until May 20

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