Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett

BBC Radio 3: Drama on 3

Broadcast: Sunday 16th April 2006 @ 7:30 p.m.

As part of BBC Radio 3's celebration of the Beckett centenary, Drama On 3 presents a new recording of the writer's masterpiece, "Waiting for Godot". The play was first performed in French at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris in 1953, directed by French actor and comedian Roger Blin. The English-language premiere was in August 1955 at the Arts Theatre, London, directed by a 24 year old Peter Hall. It transferred to the Criterion Theatre, in the London West End. At the time, theatre was strictly censored in England, to Beckett's amazement since he thought it a bastion of free speech. The Lord Chamberlain insisted that the word "erection" be removed. Indeed, there were attempts to ban the play completely. For example, Lady Dorothy Howitt wrote to the Lord Chamberlain, saying: "One of the many themes running through the play is the desire of two old tramps continually to relieve themselves. Such a dramatisation of lavatory necessities is offensive and against all sense of British decency."

The play consist of two tramps who wait on a lonely road for the elusive Godot. They pass the time with storytelling, and their everyday conversation takes on a universal significance.

The play is in two acts. Act One concerns Vladimir and Estragon, who arrive at a pre-specified roadside location in order to await the arrival of someone named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon appear to be tramps, as their clothes are ragged and do not fit, while another theory suggests that Vladimir and Estragon could be refugees or soldiers displaced from a conflict, such as World War II, which had recently ended when Beckett wrote the play and which provided him with much inspiration. Vladimir and Estragon pass the time in conversation, and sometimes in conflict. Estragon complains of his ill-fitting boots, and Vladimir struts about stiff-legged due to a painful bladder condition. Though they make vague allusions to the nature of their circumstances and to their reasons for meeting Godot, the audience never learns who Godot is or why he is important. They are soon interrupted by the arrival of Pozzo, a cruel but lyrically gifted man who claims to own the land they stand on, and his servant Lucky, whom he appears to control by means of a lengthy rope. Pozzo sits down to feast on chicken, and afterwards throws the bones to the two tramps. He entertains them by directing Lucky to perform a lively dance, and then deliver an ex tempore lecture, loosely based around the theories of the Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley. After Pozzo and Lucky depart, a boy arrives with a message supposedly from Godot, which states that Godot will not come today, "but surely to-morrow". The boy also confesses that Godot beats his brother and that he and his brother sleep in the loft of a barn.

The second act follows a similar pattern to the first, but when Pozzo and Lucky arrive, Pozzo has inexplicably gone blind and Lucky has gone mute. Again the boy arrives in order to announce that Godot will not appear. The much quoted ending of the play might be said to sum up the stasis of the whole work:

Vladimir: Well, shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let's go.
They do not move.

With Sean Barrett [Vladimir], David Burke [Estragon], Nigel Anthony [Lucky / The Narrator], Terence Rigby [Pozzo], and Zachary Fox [The Boy].

Directed by John Tydeman.

Produced by Nicholas Soames 125 min.


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