I have been really enjoying getting to work on Waiting for Godot and Pozzo, in preparation for rehearsals starting next week. I don’t know whether anyone is interested in this detailed stuff about my preparation—I have a fairly idiosyncratic set of methods for text analysis, and I don’t know if it would help anybody else to know what mine are, or if it would be interesting to anyone who isn’t an actor. But anyway, typing my ideas out in posts probably helps me think more clearly, which is helpful anyway.
The first really odd thing about Godot, as an actor preparing a role, is that it’s a translation by the playwright, who is a native speaker of English. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on something like that—there is an original text, and it’s in French, but presumably the English translation of that text is as authoritative as the French text, since Samuel Beckett speaks better English than French. Why does this matter? It’s kind of complicated—ultimately, I am playing the text that I actually have in front of me. And yet, if I am doing any sort of adaptation—Nicholas Nickleby, f’r’ex, or Les Liaisons Dangerouses or The Thirty-Nine Steps—I do have the original work as a kind of resource. If I am not certain I understand the playwright’s intention on a particular line or aspect of a character, I can at least see if the source work helps me figure it out. Sometimes it’s helpful, even if in the end what I’ve learned is the way the text I am working with differs from the original.
An example from Godot: Pozzo twice says of Lucky’s luggage-carrying “It’s not his job.” Same sentence both times; there is a lot of repetition in this play. But in the original, the first time it’s «Ce n’est pas son travail» and the second it’s «Ce n’est pas son métier.» There’s a difference there (which, having no French, I certainly don’t understand fully) and yet when Mr. Beckett chose to put it into English, he chose not to retain the difference (It’s not his calling, not his specialty, not his business, not his department, not his forte, not his responsibility, not his task, not his bailiwick, not his wheelhouse, not his work, not his gig, not his place, not his position) to keep the repetition instead. Now, if it were someone else translating a French original, I might decide that the playwright meant the two lines to have different implications, and thus choose to deliver them differently—but the translator here is presumably no traitor to the original intent of the playwright, so maybe I should emphasize that Pozzo is repeating himself.
Anyway, that’s the sort of thing I do during this pre-first-readthrough preparation stage.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,