Waiting For Waiting For Godot is the silly yet tender portrayal of two understudies waiting backstage to go on for their roles in, you guessed it, Waiting For Godot.
Simon Day plays the middle aged, cynical Ester. He’s the classic old lovey, devoted to the artistry of his craft. Personally, in the real world, as a director I wouldn’t touch Ester with a 10 foot pole. He seems absolutely crazy and like a nightmare to work with. However, beneath that there is a deep rooted sadness that Day manages to put across even whilst stuffing grapes into his mouth as a Marlon Brando Gorilla. This unique character is paired perfectly with the young, eager Val, played by James Marlowe, who just wants to be famous and have his Aunt Mary see him perform on stage. Both men have wonderful comedic instinct and bounce of each other with ease, creating a hugely entertaining onstage relationship. Laura Kirman’s role as Laura is also highly enjoyable. She captures the dry wit that many theatre crew members seem to share. She portrays hilarious vexation at Ester’s…well, everything, and her dramatic reading of her cue sheet was a highlight.
Dave Hanson’s script shines in this production. It is quietly clever, and despite having practically no narrative, doesn’t seem like it’s rambling. The fears of Ester and Val don’t just appeal to theatre types. Doubts about your career, life choices and facing your own mortality are universal. The script also manages to be light and silly, as well as very dark in places. These nuances are balanced successfully by Mark Bell’s direction. The physical theatre was uproarious whilst the quite moments were touching.
Sophia Simensky’s design completely transformed the beautiful and intimate studio space at the St James theatre into the tiny backrooms in old theatres that are full of years’ worth of props and costumes. The horrible cramped bathrooms all theatres seem to have was even included. The ironing board was used so effectively with hilarious results, I almost want to credit it as a character.
All the aspects of this production come together wonderfully to create an intimate look into the lives and fears of Val and Ester that leaves audiences wiping away tears of laughter and occasionally of emotion.
Waiting for Waiting for Godot is playing at the St James Theatre until 24 September. For more information and tickets, see the St James Theatre website.
Photo: Andy Taylor