Amongst the looming skyscrapers from which, I imagine, many of us secretly plot our escapes from the nine-to-five drudgery, two tramps are plotting their own via the single gnarled tree that stands isolated against the Canary Wharf skyline. “We could hang ourselves?”, one suggests. “It would give us an erection!”, the other replies optimistically.
And yet they never do. Their purpose prevents it and, as they constantly remind each other, their purpose is, “waiting for Godot.” Who Godot is we never learn, nor when and why he is supposed to come. For if you have come here to learn the answers to questions such as why and when, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, Miracle Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot expels all sense of time and place to convey theatre in its purest form, thus exposing the absurdity of humanity in its quest to find meaning and purpose through questions such as these.
Vladimir and Estragon, our heroes of the piece, are doomed instead to divert their attention from the pointlessness of their existence, while we watch on in pursuit of our own diversion, having escaped our nine-to-five cycle. The result is torturous amusement as we mock their increasingly desperate attempts to break free of the monotony, before returning to our own for another day. This tragic humour is beautifully conveyed by Angus Brown (Vladimir) and Steve Jacobs (Estragon) through their Laurel and Hardy-esque physical comedy. They are ably supported by Ben Dyson and Ciaran Clarke as Pozzo and Lucky, who we all welcome as an interruption from the “nothing”, before they return in the second act having too been corrupted and consumed by the void we all teeter on.
The peaceful setting of Canary Wharf’s Jubilee Garden, a little haven amongst the office blocks, enforces this idea of a need for escape, adding an almost magical quality to the production. It also provides a perfect thematic contrast to the Shakespearean performances that complete Canary Wharf’s outdoor theatre season this month. In fact, as the gulls’ cries from the docks echo around, and the far-off planes grumble by, one could not think of a better place to convey the isolation of modern life. Staring out of their glass cages, Vladimir and Estragon’s lament that there is “nothing to be done” still strikes a chord in the hearts of those plagued by the human condition.
Waiting for Godot is part of Canary Wharf’s outdoor theatre season, which concludes with a free performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on 29 July. For more information see the Canary Wharf Events website.