Yesterday I had the extremely good fortune to see Talawa's production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Albany Theatre in Deptford. It had been hyped in the media as the first British all-Black Godot. While the ethnicity of the performers is integral to the performance and the skills, speech patterns, accents and mannerisms that they bring, it didn't need this hype. This Godot stood, for me, as simply the best production I have seen full-stop and that includes the Ian McKellan/Patrick Stewart run in London 2009/2010.
Indeed, I've never seen Vladimir and Estragon so mutually dependent; they built a rapport that genuinely felt like a conflicted friendship. The direction was right on cue; the hat switching was a clear parallel to each character's turn in the role of Pozzo; when Pozzo and Lucky are lifted, the symbolism of the two thieves was brought home. The company managed to oscillate between the comic low to the deadly serious with a fluency that I have never before seen.
Of course, I would expect that many aspects of Godot must have a special resonance for the Black community; the legacy of slavery and continuing discrimination mediated through economics cannot but be brought to mind by this production. The skill in this production lay, however, in making this more than a single-faceted, didactic piece, while still giving this the attention it needed.
In my view, this production deserves to be on a run in the West End. The Deptford Albany must be commended for its intimate atmosphere and £8 tickets (that makes the theatre accessible to many who would not otherwise attend). However, it simply does not provide a wide enough reach for this excellent revival of Beckett's work. I don't hold out much hope that this will happen, but it was so good that I'd be happy to wait.
Image © copyright Talawa. Used here for purposes of review and criticism under fair dealing to illustrate the production.