Friday, May 29, 2009
WAITING FOR GODOT
As a special belated birthday treat i went to see a marvelous production of Waiting for Godot in Edinburgh.My Wife could not go , which made the treat even more enjoyable.
A Golden Triangle of Three World class actors and a legendary playwright made the play the Theatre Event of the year.I was very lucky to get a front row ticket right in the middle.So close i could see the boils on McKellens feet , and the sweat gushing beneath Callows heavy clownlike makeup.
Just before one of my friends tipped me about the play i had read a perceptive article by Terry Eagleton in The New Left Review which put a very sharp and precise look into the personal circumstances of Beckett.If you go to your local reference library , get NLR ( New Left review) no. 40 July/Aug issue and read Terry Eagletons article from page 67.It tells you all about what Beckett was upto in the lead-up time and his thought processes prior to writing it , which leads to a clearer perspective of what he was trying to say in the play.He had been in France fighting for the resistance against the Nazis and saw a lot of his peers in that period turn from lefties to righties by the end of the war (Orwell etc) ; add that to being held suspiciously by the Brit handlers of the resistance because he was "republican" and having to handle explosives as well as hide from the Gestapo and at many points starvation.All these strains make up the tensions and absurdities in his experience.It gives his opinion of dogmas and ideologies of Western thought at the time he began Godot.
It was actually written after the War and is more than anything else a critique of the failure of leftism to defeat fascistic tendencies and Becketts take on the bankruptcy of Western thought to deliver on the early promise of the enlightenment.If you watch the play with this understanding in mind , you will find it a rallying call and challenge to invite todays generation to come up with inspiration and fresh ideas that offer something much better than we have at the moment , rather than a bleak play that has no positive outlook or answer to offer.
The problem with Capitalism and Communism ( socialist and fascist varieties) is that they basically have the same goals, namely to rule the world.The only difference is that capitalists have a load of dough , and Communists have loose change and buttons , and a bizarre unshakable belief that the man on the street is going to happily put his life on the line in order to hand the reins of power into their untried hands.The proof in the pudding is that the Blair cabinet was loaded with People who were an almost monty-python type parody of Communists ( John Reid ; Blunkett etc) who then turned into an almost monty-python type of Bush-Whack Imperialists without actually ditching any of their core beliefs.Which proves a Communist is basically a capitalist , and the revolutions they call for are actually Elite Change and not societal change as they claim in their rhetoric.They seem to have expunged from their discourse that the Soviet Union was one of the most unsubtle and crass experiments in imperialism ever undertaken from their collective marxist memories.These days youll be taken aback at how much from the same hymn sheet appear the speeches of Bush neo-cons like Cheney and Rumsfeld and the statements about the world and how to solve it that come out of ultra-lefties trying to teach People in South America and the Middle East to adopt Marxism.It is like Dogma of the worst kind has completely taken over the ideas of the enlightenment like an incurable computer virus.It is precisely because of this that i think a fresh way of looking at the message of Godot is well worth looking at , because we are at present going through the same malaise and lack of confidence in the system and its direction that Beckett was feeling when he wrote it.
Some say the play is not about anything really , a meaning-less play about nothing much.That has certainly been the view of the work for the last few decades.But , and this is the big butt , the "meaningless" aspect has rather been a description of how we have collectively reached a cul-de-sac or a Thinkers block.Hence the challenge is to come up with fresh workable ideas.The main failing of the ideas around the time he wrote it was that they all treated Human Beings as commodities rather than spiritual beings.Once you do that you end up advocating an ill fitting 2 dimensional template for a 3 dimensional problem and run into the kind of dead end that this play describes.I think the problem lies in that both systems ( Capitalism and Communism )treat Humans as a commodity.Once you do that then , as one correctly observes , the best you will do is become just another hue of capitalism.Hence the quite dramatic , yet consistent , sprint of many radical neo-cons , and also Rupert Murdoch , from extreme left to far-out right.
Though the play initially only had McKellen and Stewart at first , a third legend joined the roadshow.Its like a dream come true for me, Callow is a legend in his own lavatory ( if you know what i mean) and my favourite Theatre Actor.He is full of shit , and i mean that in a good way.He has revived many a Dickensian lecture tour performance and written an excellent biography on Charles Laughton.He also wrote an excellent bio-novel called "Love is where it falls" about a platonic relationship with Peggy Ramsay , the literally and drama agent that brought Wide Sargasso Sea to Worldwide attention when she convinced Jean Rhys that the public would take to her Novel.
The production itself dispensed with the recent tradition of having long drawn out pregnant pauses , this gave the play a surprising release.