The Great Game: Afghanistan / Waiting For Godot / Spring Awakening
Various venues
April / May, 2009

Although different in form from the Tricycle’s tribunal plays, The Great Game season springs from the same impulse towards citizenship, not simply of our country but of the world.  Theatre can engage with specific issues and we can engage through it, and that engagement need not at all be one of agit-prop manipulation, righteous ire or futile liberal guilt.

The Great Game may be the biggest opening this issue in terms of staged material, but in terms of media profile there is simply no competition: Waiting For Godot was a sensation long before it arrived at the Haymarket after its preparatory tour.  Many reviews note the extent to which director Sean Mathias has emphasised the play’s artificiality and staginess, with some speculating that the notoriously protective Beckett estate might have a thing or two to say about such liberties.  After all, back in the mid-1990s Deborah Warner was banned from future Beckett undertakings by the estate after she took rather fewer liberties with Footfalls.  Perhaps they’re loosening up; I recently saw the Berlin Schaubühne production of Krapp’s Last Tape (Das Letzte Band), which makes few departures from Beckettian orthodoxy (beyond the use of video instead of audio recording) but manages to stretch the action out to 75 minutes or so from the more usual 40-45.  (I noted that a full 20 minutes passed before the first bit of banana business.)  Or perhaps the estate now realise that their strictures against high-profile productions reflect badly upon themselves.  After all, to the best of my knowledge no complaint was made against the Royal Court version of Krapp’s Last Tape which saw Harold Pinter in a motorised wheelchair and eschewing bananas altogether, nor against Peter Brook’s production of Rockaby without either a rocking chair or a recorded voice-over and of Act Without Words II with words.  What next – Quad with only three figures?


Ruth Leon remarks at the end of her Spring Awakening review in this issue that “the cast is very raw but will probably settle in.”  In a grim irony, it has since been announced that the show will close at the end of this week.  A pity: when I finally got to see it I was as impressed as almost every other reviewer, and I thought – frankly, I hoped – that the youth market might give it sufficient “legs” to run for several months.  I may have time to go back and see it again before it closes, which for me is virtually unheard-of.
Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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