Head Full-Throttle into Godot

(Bottom left - top right) John Robertson, Michael Sams, Max Lenoy and Colin Livesey in 'Waiting for Godot', at the Old Courthouse Theatre until 12 August. IMAGE: Photobase NQ

On Tuesday,  I was delighted to be asked along to the final tech run of Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot. Godot is renowned in theatre lore as one of the most significant plays of the 20th century, and for good reason: it raises many questions, but answers few of them – leaving the audience to ponder at will.

Before the show I had my own idea of what the set would look like, having seen many simple designs previously – but walking in to the Old Courthouse Theatre, I was astounded. Set designer Glenn Shield’s interpretation of the play adds to the quirky and dark aspects of the production, with a collection of unwanted objects greying and surrounding a jagged, bare corpse of a tree. It is a set that is not obtrusive but still has its own dirty grandeur, and had me excited from the moment I stepped inside.

The prologue crafted by Director Laurie Page and his cast gets you equally as excited for the production, with small, tantalising glimpses into the personalities of each character before they vanish offstage, waiting for their time to shine; and shine they did.

Laurie’s involvement in the local comedy scene is evident, with extra humour stitched in throughout Godot – and in such a clever and delicate way. There are scenes where you need time to think about what is happening, to sympathise with those on stage, and these moments are recognised and respected, with the comedy pared back. In fact, they are celebrated with beautiful additions – one such moment being Max Lenoy’s Pozzo breaking out in the most emotive and powerful rendition of Amazing Grace I have heard. This is a huge song; it means so much to so many, but Max did it justice and then some. A great feature of the Old Courthouse Theatre is how dark the audience section is during performances – no one noticed my eyes watering during Amazing Grace last night, and they won’t notice yours either.

Michael Sams’ Vladimir (Didi) had me shaking trying to hold in laughs more than once. His facial expressions alone were enough to put a smile on the face of anyone, but paired with his clumsiness and rapid speech, gave him the air of an excited 10-year-old. Michael was impeccable throughout, and his jest proved useful to speed up the production in parts where the mood soured or slowed. He isn’t all fun and laughs though, with his thought process unravelling towards the end of Act Two – and we see the true calibre of Michael’s acting chops.

John Robertson made Estragon (Gogo) an incredibly grounded character, with a lot of depth in every expression and action taken. There were scenes where someone else would be talking, and John’s face – when not buried in his hands napping – would be one of sage, quiet contemplation. I became transfixed in his performance and expressions more than once, and cannot commend him and Michael highly enough for carrying the brunt of Godot‘s weight between the two of them.

I have already mentioned Max as Pozzo, and while his rendition of Amazing Grace was the production’s highlight for me, the rest of Max’s performance was equally enthralling: Pozzo is an incredibly in-depth character, with a lot of sudden changes in thought process and emotion, and a reliance on his slave Lucky. As for Lucky himself, Colin Livesey has taken this character with both hands and molded it into one that’s all his own. The relationship between Pozzo and Lucky is a quizzical one, with it first seeming like Lucky has no control. But this begins to change when Didi and Gogo order Lucky to think, and we see the intellect behind the man. Colin’s monologue, the only time we hear Lucky talk, is a turning point in the play, and is a credit to Colin. For a character that spent a majority of the play with his head down or lying on the ground, there was just as much passion and emotion in that one monologue as in some entire productions.

Lastly, the ‘boy.’ Lachlan Carey held his own in a cast of extremely talented and experienced actors, delivered his part expertly, and reacted brilliantly to the other cast members.

The audio and lighting elements of Full Throttle productions are always treated with their own finesse, and Godot is no different: the actors tell the story on their own, but the addition of a splash of sunset colours before the darkness of night, the soundtrack of some incredibly beautiful instrumentals and deep, soulful lyrics all combined to lift Godot even higher.

Credit must also go to playwright Samuel Beckett, who has pieced together a performance in which nothing really happens, but that you can’t take your eyes off. The original is three or four hours long, but Laurie has done a fantastic job in cutting it back to keep the pace moving and the audience interested. You won’t be able to take your eyes off stage; you will be laughing one second and holding your heart the next; and you will leave content. Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot is a refreshing, humorous and emotional take on a classic, and shouldn’t be missed.

Experience Full Throttle Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot at the Old Courthouse Theatre from 2-6 and 9-12 August, with tickets available here

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