The endless wait

T wo tramps on stage held our attention with their spiritless exchanges and made us partners in the wait for an hour and 20 minutes. At the end of it the viewer was as clueless about the purpose of the wait.

That in essence is the reason for the universal appeal of Samuel Beckett's play ‘Waiting for Godot.' Over half a century after the play first appeared, the stage continues to open immense possibilities for multiple strands that can be picked from each production in any geography.

‘Godoye Kaathu' by Silicon Media was staged at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. Poet Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan's Malayalam version of the original provided the text for this performance. Placing it in the present would not have been a difficult task for a seasoned director, but putting it differently without paring the original of its innate strength calls for a degree of dexterity.

Nandajan K.A., the director of the play, has tried to snick our way of seeing by interspersing the play with video projections, which bring home the fact that life continues to have all those minuses that were conceived in the main characters: Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo and Lucky.

Victims of violence, it is always a raw deal for humankind and that happens to be the interpretation that emerges here. “Violence in some form or the other continues to be the leitmotif of human existence. If the original play was written in the shadow of the War, now the manifestations have changed but violence per se continues,” explains Nandajan.

The torment of waiting

Imprisoning of the characters in an endless wait for Godot has now become the torment of waiting before impervious faces in soulless offices. Or if Pozzo keeps Lucky on leash, do we not have a repeat of it in the Abu Ghraib prison? The violence that is inherent in any relationship gets highlighted here; the marketing blitzkrieg on an unsuspecting customer that stokes his acquisitive urge with offers, is often more pronounced than the choice Estragon and Vladimir have to make between carrots and turnips. The accusative, interrogative, authoritative and assertive voices coalesce to make each living moment hellish when exaggerated features of the human face acquire repulsive distortions impinging on the sanity of man as it were.

Estragon (Manoj Kumar) and Vladimir (Prakash Bare) in the course of the play, sway from back-patting banter to taking digs at each other to despondency. The dynamics in their bonding and the constant vying for the dominant-subordinate level in the relationship is also a projection of ground reality.

The same can be said of the Pozzo (C.N. Sivadas )-Lucky (K.R. Haridasan) partnering. Pozzo is definitely not a good man to know, but when he keeps Lucky tethered to him with a rope it reveals his insecurity too. ‘Dance' and ‘think' is what Lucky can do. Thinking is the value addition that comes to Lucky when he wears the hat: he grows big, starts uttering gibberish or jargon that is far beyond the understanding of the ordinary Estragon, Vladimir and Pozzo.

Cutting Lucky to size

The brilliant idea of cutting Lucky to size by removing the hat was a reminder of the deep understanding of man that is embedded in practically every act or word by Samuel Beckett in the play. The speech-impaired Lucky leading the visually-challenged Pozzo is also a very convenient state in their relationship, which hitherto worked on the dominant-subordinate lines, with Pozzo as the tyrannical partner. Any wonder the play continues to throw up immense possibilities in a new century.

Dithering and floundering, with little or no application of the mind, Estragon and Vladimir remain where they are with a repetitive boredom. The human being is useless but requires a ‘Godot' – the miracle man or the God head – to move on. The play was not as bleak as has often been described despite labels of ‘absurd' and ‘existentialist' being given.

“To connect with as many people was definitely necessary without curtailing the original. We took into account the common viewer's expectations from a play and chose the engaging and easy-to-communicate portions from the text,” was how Prakash Bare explained the absence of a mood that weighs down the viewer.

‘Godoye Kaathu' received appropriate support from Gopan and Rajan of In Cameo for light and sound effects. When the play concludes, Estragon and Vladimir are still in ‘mumble-stumble-procrastinate' mode painting a grim picture of the human condition in present times.

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