Waiting For Waiting For Godot
Written by: Dave Hanson
Directed by: Michael Hurst
Hannah Playhouse, 28th Nov 2023
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Waiting For Waiting For Godot by award-winning American playwright Dave Hanson takes Samuel Beckett’s iconic, absurdist masterpiece to new, meta heights. Two understudies (Callum Brodie as Ester and George Maunsell as Val) wait to go on in a production of Waiting For Godot. Stuck backstage in perpetuity, we watch the two actors contemplate fame and fortune as they wait for their number to be called, for their tables to turn. But like Godot, their time in the spotlight never comes.
I’ve dropped that semi-spoiler because it’s important to note that in this 75-minute production, nothing really happens. But I’ve never been less bored watching ‘nothing’, waiting for Waiting For Godot alongside our neurotic, hapless heroes. This comedy could be oxymoronically deemed fast-paced waiting or mile-a-minute nothingness. Even the still moments are loaded with action, the silences fraught with tension. And so brilliant are the actors, you could cut the chemistry with a knife.
Brodie is hilarious as the pompous peacock Ester, a perpetual underachiever too big for his boots (and his vest). His performance is able to reach deliciously extravagant heights thanks to the solid anchorage below: Maunsell as the more-competent, less-experienced Val. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Maunsell’s softer performance is both captivating and crucially grounding. Michael Hurst’s meticulous direction strikes balance on a precipice, never allowing the performances to teeter over the edge as the cast navigates that fine line between hysterically funny and hammy with aplomb.
Iana Grace as the assistant stage manager makes two cameos that serve to highlight how ridiculous the understudies are, what a faraway world they inhabit. While I preferred getting lost in the Ester-and-Val show, made all the more engrossing by one knockout lighting state change (Alex Turner) and a set that looks like a bomb went off, the introduction of another character does add an interesting texture to the stage dynamic.
Waiting For Waiting For Godot is a masterclass in craftsmanship. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen this year. I shook with laughter even as it resonated with me deeply. The best kind of theatre.