'The playwright was Samuel Beckett. The play was Waiting for Godot. Fifteen years later, Gielgud urged Richardson to do Home, says Storey, “because of this terrible mistake he’d foisted on Ralph”. Thus began, in its English incarnation, the long and colourful casting history of the play widely regarded as the 20th century’s greatest. (En Attendant Godot had already taken its first bow at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris in 1953. Lucien Raimbourg and Pierre Latour were Vladimir and Estragon.) In the intervening decades, an enduring question has tormented actors and audiences alike: who exactly is Godot? But before that, a director has to ask an altogether more pressing question: who are Vladimir and Estragon?'
The Sunday Times has hit the ground running with a series of Samuel Beckett articles and retrospectives this week. No doubt this is the result of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan's current UK revival of Waiting for Godot on the stage. In addition to a series of interviews with comedians influenced by his work (see previous post, 'Sam's A Laugh'), there is a short piece reviewing notable stars that have been attracted to Waiting for Godot over the years.
Actors discussed include Alan Howard and Ben Kingsley, who co-starred in a production of Beckett's play at the Old Vic in 1997; and there is reflection on the Mike Nichols production of 1988, where comedic film stars Steve Martin and Robin Williams played the central parts:
'On occasion, too much advantage has been taken of the play's vaudevillian roots. In Mike Nichol's Lincoln Center production in 1988, Robin Williams played Estragon to Steve Martin's Vladimir. Williams predictably lacked the discipline to adhere to the sacred text, ad-libbing contemporary gags and breaking the fourth wall to sit among the audience.'
The stars of this particular article, however, are Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. There is ample space devoted to the duo, as they travel the UK with their current revival. You can read the article in full by clicking here.