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Theatre Review – Waiting for Godot

The Fugard Theatre Cast:

Estragon           Ian McKellen

Vladimir           Roger Rees

Pozzo               Matthew Kelly

Lucky               Brendan O’Hea

Boy                  Khathutshelo Khangala

                        Hisham Ryklief

Today sees the close of the South African leg of Sean Mathias’s production of absurd playwright Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for the Godot. The local production has been on stage in Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre since 29 July and was sold out early on.

The International tour saw the cast travel across the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and finally end in South Africa. The production at the Fugard was however not done with the same set that had been used in many of the international performances as it proved to be too expensive and large for the intimate venue. The stage at the Fugard Theatre is a quarter of the size of the stage used in the original production which ran for two years on London’s West End.

I personally felt that the Fugard was the best possible choice for the production as it is a return to the manner that absurdist theatre was meant to be performed, in an intimate setting with none of the trimmings of conventional theatre. The Fugard embodied this with the signature exposed beams and light fixtures which one has come to expect and associate with the theatre of the absurd. The tree which is central to the action (or lack thereof) in the play was done to appear as though it grew out of the floor and blends in with the rest of the simple décor in the theatre. The seating was done to encircle the stage thus further removing the fourth wall.

Another striking aspect of the play were the costumes which were strikingly authentic that I now see how it was possible for passersby in Australia to mistake Sir Ian McKellen for a tramp. The bruises on his legs and sores on his feet are also done with such accuracy that I did a double take to make sure that it was indeed make-up.

The lighting design at the Fugard Theatre was done by South African local Mannie Manim, who is also the Executive Director of the Fugard Theatre.