Pozzo Diaries: more than halfway

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Five performances of Waiting for Godot down, two to go.

It’s going well, on the whole. No disasters, lots of laughs. Not a lot of butts in seats, but that’s to be expected. We’re carrying on.

The first two performances were tough—we were pretty seriously under-rehearsed, and Gogo wasn’t yet comfortable with the lines. Didi hadn’t really nailed down the flow of everything, either, so he didn’t have the facility to pick up when Gogo dried. There were probably only a couple of moments when the audience was aware that there was a problem, but whole chunks of the play got skipped, and the rhythm of the thing was intermittent. The middle weekend was clearly increasingly comfortable; there were still dropped lines (and in at least one case a repeated bit) but they knew how to pick up from them, and perhaps more important, they knew that they could pick up from them. And that meant they could concentrate more on performing.

The thing is, when it comes to line memorizing, and the business of going on from a dropped line, Godot is probably the hardest play I’m familiar with. I mean, yes, every play is difficult in its way. Shakespeare and other ‘classical’ plays make it difficult to extemporize in the heightened language the characters speak. But then that heightened language makes it easier to memorize. And Shakespeare plays mostly flow very directly from idea to idea, and from action to action. If you blank on where you are in the play, you can look around you, and the characters who are on-stage and their situations will tell you. In Godot, not only are there just the two of them (for most of the play) but very little has changed or will ever change in their surroundings. Has the conversation about the tree happened already? Or the insult contest? There’s no way to know except remembering. And the play is, for Didi and Gogo, mostly a collection of individual bits sewn together in no obvious dramatic order.

I do think that, given enough rehearsal time, the order of the bits would feel less arbitrary and more focused. The various times that Gogo naps (or tries to), the introduction of new topics of conversation, the arguments about the previous day. There is, I think, a kind of forward momentum through them, or at least one can be constructed. But that’s the sort of thing that takes a lot of sifting, repetition, attempts and rejections, and eventual agreement, and we just didn’t have the time for it. So when Gogo (f’r’ex) is changing the subject by asking if Didi is sure that they are in the right place, it might just as well come before or after complaining that he’s hungry.

In the third performance (Friday night of the second weekend), while waiting in the dressing room for Pozzo’s entrance, I became extremely nervous that they were going to suddenly jump forward to that entrance, and that we wouldn’t be ready for it. Not an unreasonable fear, under the circumstances. This was also exacerbated by the monitor in the dressing room not working for some reason, and by the air conditioner making enough noise to intermittently drown out the actors without it. In fact, they didn’t skip any significant chunk of lines at all, and we came in when we were supposed to. It wasn’t until the fifth show (the matinee) that I felt relaxed before my entrances, that I would be coming in at the right moment and that Didi and Gogo would be able to properly focus on me.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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