Lyceum Theatre (Edinburgh International Festival)

7.30 pm August 3rd to 12th (Not 7th) 2.30 pm August 5th and 11th only.

This is one of the classic texts of postwar drama in English. From earlier experience I was expecting that by the end of the evening I might feel I had been philosophically pummeled and maybe a little depressed.

I could not have been more wrong. This exuberant production from Druid theatre company, directed by Garry Hines was gripping and entertaining from the first painful struggle to remove an ill-fitting boot. Two men, homeless and adrift, are on an empty stage, apart from a timeworn tree and a rock that invites use as a seat. Estragon and Vladimir are long-term buddies. They are tied to this place because this is where Mr Godot has said he will come to them. We are given no idea what Mt Godot may do, nor do the pair seem to have any idea. But they must wait. They are interrupted by Pozzo and his slave Lucky. As their interaction develops their attitude towards the pair alters. How sympathetic is Lucky?

Pozzo and Lucky could represent the class system in the world beyond. But is this quite as it seems? The accent of Rory Nolan as Pozzo seemed at times to vary between southern English and Irish and, this being Beckett, one could wonder if that was intentional. Lucky’s mind is duly revealed, but is this intended as a comment on arid academia? Garrett Lombard as Lucky has a part that demands great precision and comic timing and he is extremely effective. There is a hat sequence that seems like a warm tribute to the great Buster Keaton.

But of course, the stars of the show are Aaron Monaghan as Estragon and Marty Rea as Vladimir. The interactions between these two are the source of both comedy and pathos. There are references to the religious customs of their culture. What does it all mean? Who knows? There are many lines in this play that have just about entered the language, and a not too aware punter might say, as sometimes at a Shakespeare play, “Oh, this is just full of quotations.” Yet, no matter how often heard, those lines are still full of feeling and of black humour.

It is not easy to convey how this production is a thorough delight at the same time as being as disturbing and provocative as the play ever is. To combine these attributes is a marvel on the part of the cast and director, and the show fully deserved it’s partial standing ovation last night.

Tony Challis