Review: Waiting for Godot

This is a famous 1953 play by Samuel Beckett that is in the absurdist tradition. It features two older men who have been together for a long time and have clearly seen better days, as can be discerned by their current shabby clothing coupled with their highly sophisticated use of language and their recollections of good times in the past in various parts of Europe. A man named Godot has told the two of them to wait for him by a tree on a desolate road. The two dutifully wait, clearly expecting their fortunes to improve once he arrives.

I had heard about this play but never actually seen a stage performance. Just last week I was speaking with a colleague in the theater department and he spoke about using this play in his course on the introduction to theater and he recommended a production that was part of the Beckett on Film series produced by Beckett’s estate that filmed all 19 of his plays. This particular play cane be seen online. (You have to ignore the subtitles in what seems to be Esperanto.)

I watched it over the weekend and have to admit that I don’t know that I ‘got it’, if there is anything to get. As I have mentioned before, I am not very good at discerning deep meaning in the arts and the deliberately absurdist nature of this play sent it over my head. But having said all that, I found the play to be fascinating and pretty funny in parts. The acting was excellent and the dialogue was gripping and I will definitely watch it again some time in the future.

Absurdism in the arts is by itself not uncommon and in addition to its philosophical depth can also provide a rich vein for humor. Monty Python owes a lot of its humor to the absurdist tradition where characters engage in illogical conversations and reasoning, and non sequiturs are the norm.

Sesame Street had one of its best parodies ever in its take on Waiting for Godot.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart did Godot on Broadway a year or two ago. Would’ve loved to have seen that.

  2. danielwilliams says

    A large chunk of what I enjoy about Beckett is there’s no right answer to his plays. I enjoy them for what they are, and what they might mean for me.

    For instance, one way I like seeing it is social allegory. Ponzzo is the archetypical rich capitalist, doing nothing himself and seeing his exploitation as a favor, and the play becomes some biting class satire.

    Or could say Godot is God (a popular interpretation) and each character is struggling with the absence of God in their own incomplete way, trying to find meaning in the meaninglessness.

    Or they’re all souls in purgatory, replaying the elements of their lives with other random lost soul hoping for a chance to escape.

    Or it’s all actual nonsense, and any attempt to impose meaning on the events is a human failing to impose arbitrary order when there is none.

    Any way to look at it, it’s all good fun!

  3. Mano Singham says

    My colleague told me that Steve Martin and Robin Williams also performed it to very good reviews off-Broadway, except for the New York Times critic who disliked it and that was enough to prevent it making it to Broadway.

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