| Naseeruddin Shah performs in Waiting for Godot. (PTI)
Dublin, Jan. 6 (Reuters): Fifty years have passed and Godot has yet to arrive, but Samuel Beckett’s seminal work continues to pack theatres the world over.
The renowned Irish playwright did not attend the premiere of Waiting for Godot in a tiny Parisian theatre half-a-century ago this week, but he need not have suffered any first-night nerves.
Although it initially met with indifference from the public and was panned by critics, Beckett’s first play has since been hailed a classic which transformed 20th century theatre.
Even though its eponymous hero fails to put in an appearance in a play where, as one critic declared, “nothing happens — twice”, Waiting for Godot still leaves audiences both bewildered and enraptured.
To mark its anniversary, Dublin’s Gate Theatre has revived its own acclaimed production in Beckett’s home city.
Director Walter Asmus is no stranger to Beckett, having first worked with the reclusive Nobel prize-winning playwright in Berlin in the 1970s.
In an interview, Asmus said Beckett would be amazed at how popular his play has proved to be were he alive today. The playwright, who befriended another famous Irish literary giant James Joyce in 1920s Paris, died in 1989 aged 83.
“He would be pleased because he wanted people to see his plays although he did not take himself too seriously,” Asmus said. “I knew him personally quite well. He was a very gentle and kind man but underneath he was relentless in his view of the world.”
It was his world-weary view that prompted Beckett to pen Godot, which explores themes of hopelessness, religion and death and was heavily influenced by the horrors of World War Two.
The plot is almost non-existent as two tramps pass their time under a tree on a stretch of waste ground waiting for Godot, whose identity is never revealed.
Academics have long pored over its meaning, which Beckett kept deliberately vague, but most agree it deals with man’s uncertainty about his destiny.
Asmus said the play’s perennial appeal came from audiences being able to relate to its characters’ desperate search for salvation.
“I think they understand that the play is connected to their own existence in the sense that they feel they are in the same boat,” he added. “They’re also trying to pass the time and trying to survive — it’s really a metaphor for survival.”
When he put the play on in New York, Asmus was ast- onished at the hushed silence that descended over the theatre as the audience was held spellbound.