September 2013        

Anticipating the post-nuclear experience

Waiting for Godot will be performed by Gare St Lazare Players, Ireland, at the Dublin Theatre Festival from 2 to 6 October at the Gaiety Theatre. They offer a reading of the play that differs from the festival assessment, that the characters’ comical efforts to pass the time parody the human condition in this, Beckett’s first and funniest play.
     When Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot, not long after the Second World War, memories of yet another sick attempt at world dominance by way of the destruction of countries, cultures and millions of humans were still raw. Beckett’s play presents the viewer with people who have almost come to the end of their humanness and any positive human experience. The tree of life is almost barren and is a prop on which to hang oneself.
     The human experience is reduced to simply staying alive and performing, with effort, the simplest actions. Homo sapiens has been stripped of the “sapiens” part. The characters find it difficult to stand upright. The Renaissance vision of human beauty, godlikeness and perfectibility has been lost. Here there is no sensual, intellectual or artistic enjoyment.
     The narratives that have been useful in endorsing human goodness have all been stripped of their meaningfulness, including a clearly vain hope for God(ot) to arrive. In fact waiting for God(ot) prevents any movement out of this state.
     Beckett’s play is of immediate relevance to the world situation today. It is a warning against the ultimate destruction of humanity. However, Beckett leaves us with a sense that all is not lost. His characters still help each other at times of need: they still have that humanity. The tree bears a few leaves at the end of the play; it is not dead.
     Yet that hope is tenuous. Will the characters be strong enough to move on?

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