Pozzo Diaries: still before the beginning

I’ve been trying to get in my head the questions that I want to try to get answers to at the first rehearsal of Waiting for Godot. There will be a lot of questions I won’t get answers to, of course, and there will be a lot of things that won’t be decided yet, but there are a few things that I think it’s important that we all agree on before we really being working together—and of course it’s the directors job to decide what it is that everyone agrees on. There’s such a wide range of interpretations possible in Godot (despite the Beckett estate) that I think it’s got to be a good idea to narrow down the big picture before we go too far down any paths. How’s that for a mixed metaphor?

Anyway. The first question—and all of these, bye-the-bye, seem like questions that could be answered differently by different very good productions of this play—is whether the world has ended, or whether it is just Didi and Gogo who have fallen out of it. That is, are Didi and Gogo (and the audience) tramps living on the edge of an otherwise recognizable world which they could theoretically rejoin, or are has all time and thought stopped for everyone, and there is no world to rejoin, and perhaps never was?

That question affects the more specific question as the Pozzo actor: is the Pozzo of Act One telling the truth about being a wealthy landowner? Is he deliberately lying? Is he deluded? Pozzo talks about selling Lucky at a fair: are there potential buyers? Is there a fair? Was there ever a fair? Blind Pozzo is a tramp in Act Two; is Sighted Pozzo in Act One, whatever he says? Or has he, in the indeterminately-long day between the Acts, succumbed to whatever cataclysm has eaten the World?

Also related or not unrelated: what really is the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky? How much control does Lucky really have over Pozzo? How aware are either of them of the other’s actions, much less their thoughts?

Those are the three big questions, I think, whose answers begin narrow down the almost infinite range of possibilities for my as an actor playing Pozzo.

To make this a little more specific: Over the course of Act One, Pozzo displays three things that he returns to his pockets and subsequently cannot find: his pipe, his throat spray and his watch. These are luxuries, although meager ones: are they irreplaceable? Does Pozzo believe that he can purchase another pipe, another atomizer, another pocketwatch? Is that belief, if he has it, a delusion? Do Didi and Gogo believe that he can purchase things? Are the francs that are mentioned real, and can they be exchanged for goods and services somewhere?

On stage: what happens to the things?

I don’t remember what happens to the things in any of the productions I’ve seen, on screen or on stage. I can think of three possibilities: first, and probably the one that I’ve seen since it would be the least memorable, is that Pozzo puts them back in his pockets, as the stage directions indicate, and then they are never seen again. He could have trick pockets, in order to turn them out, or he could just fumble around patting and peering and give up. The second possibility is that when he puts them in his pockets they drop out onto the stage, after which the audience can see them but the characters don’t—they belong to the world from which Didi and Gogo have fallen, and from which Pozzo and Lucky are falling, and the stage could indeed be littered with the detritus of that world without any of them seeing it or caring—if it can’t be eaten or worn, what good is it, after all? The equivalent of an iPhone after the apocalypse, battery dead, screen blank, no wifi to connect to or apps to download.

And the third possibility, which appeals to me simply as a matter of staging, is that Lucky takes them. Somehow, after Pozzo puts the pipe back in his pocket, when he goes to take it out again, it isn’t there, and Lucky, perhaps on the other side of the stage, puts it in the valise that he has been lugging all this time.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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