For anyone who doesn't know the plot, here's a brief resume. In Act One, Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot. A character called Pozzo (pronounced "pot-so") turns up with his slave, Lucky, who he keeps tethered on a rope. Lucky dances for them and when commanded to “think” makes a long, frantic speech which begins almost intelligibly and descends into meaninglessness. Pozzo and Lucky go on their way. A boy arrives, who tells Vladimir and Estragon that Godot is unable to come that day. The same events are repeated in Act Two, except for the fact that Lucky, who says nothing, is leading Pozzo, who is apparently blind.
Perhaps it's because I belong to a generation brought up on Monty Python, but I'm always mystified when people say that “nothing happens” in this play. Okay, so unlike Python's Spanish Inquisition, Godot never shows up, unless Pozzo is in fact Godot, using an assumed name. This is an interesting ambiguity which this production brought out well, I thought. If Godot is in fact God, then is he the elusive character who will always turn up tomorrow, or is he a cruel Pozzo-like character, dragging 'lucky ' humanity around on a rope? When it was put to him, Beckett apparently rejected the idea that Godot represented God, but then I suspect he would have quite rightly deflected any attempt to pin the play down. Part of the play's strength is the richness of its ambiguities. As he once said: 'The key word in my plays is "perhaps"'.
Another common myth, if you ask me, is that the play is “bleak”. It is only bleak in that it looks in the eye things that need to be looked in the eye. Any meaningful approach to spirituality, for me, anyway, has to face up to the problems of the human condition explored by Beckett. The alternative, to ignore them, is unsatisfactory escapism. I often find this: that the statements of some atheists and agnostics carry more spiritual weight than those of some believers, as the non-believer is free to think things the believer considers unthinkable. As RS Thomas (who was a somewhat unconventional Anglican Minister) says, in his poem, Via Negativa:
Why no! I never thought other thanThe English version of the play is subtitled “A Tragicomedy”. Perhaps the tragedy for Vladimir and Estragon is that, unlike RS Thomas, they do hope.
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find.