Return of Beckett's timeless double act

4th July 1997 at 01:00
WAITING FOR GODOT. The Peter Hall Company at the Old Vic

In 1955 two tramps, or possibly clowns, changed the course of theatre history. Peter Hall was barely down from Cambridge when he directed his first production of Waiting for Godot. He is tackling it again 42 years on.

The play seems remarkably modern, facing up squarely and sparely to 20th-century confusion at a seemingly purposeless existence. In the void where time passes (a midnight blue box containing a minimal tree, designed by John Gunter), Estragon and Vladimir exhibit their interdependence, their frustration, their puzzlement and their ironic detachment. Their patter amounts to a comic double act. They are visited by Pozzo and Lucky, also interdependent, although Pozzo is Lucky's master.

Alan Howard and Ben Kingsley play Vladimir and Estragon, the one tall, lugubrious and given to philosophising; the other smaller, darting, concerned with his pinching boots. A note in the programme draws attention to the play's Irishness (although Samuel Beckett wrote it in French), and Alan Howard and Ben Kingsley essay wayward Irish accents. The warmth of their relationship, however, is that of long-term companions long used to each other's foibles.

Denis Quilley's Pozzo is a bluff country gent, not so much deliberately cruel to Lucky as too vain to notice another person's pain. There is less menace about him than one might expect, but Greg Hicks's Lucky - shaking, slobbering, barely able to stand - provides a graphic demonstration of the effects of man's inhumanity to his fellow man.

Tickets: 0171 928 7616

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