Samuel Beckett’s Warten Auf Godot at the Volkstheater in Munich

The build up to seeing this classic of modern staged drama goes along with many giggles. Finally, I’ve found someone to see Samuel Beckett’s most famous play with: Waiting For Godot. Because we are in Bavaria’s capital, we see the German translation. And luckily, spoken in the clearest high German, not in the local dialect. I am sure the two Cantonese-speaking students sitting to the prompter (in Germany the French word souffleuse describes this profession) appreciate this too. Thanks to the extra leg room in the front we avoid being spat at by the actor’s verbal eruptions and there will be several in the next two and a half hours. 

Now, do not expect extravagant stage sets when in a German theatre. To be taken serious by critics here, a play sticks to a very organised colour scheme (encouraging varieties of black, grey and maybe navy blue) while keeping props and costumes to a minimum; critic’s describing what they see as “lush“ or “bombastic” accuse directors generally of kitsch or pubertal extravaganza. The big, black stage in front gapes at us, no corners or edges, only a pole representing the tree you find on every poster for Godot anywhere. Underneath sits an intestine-coloured plastic rock, as stolen from a theme park and spontaneously coloured pink with the last drops of the paint bucket. 

Waiting For Godot has always been staged somewhere on this planet since its premiere in Paris in the early 1950s. When the names and even nicknames of the protagonists are known better than the plot, you are dealing with a classic (Hamlet comes into mind, and the Rocky Horror Show). Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot by the tree. Every day. Who Godot is and why they wait for him and for what has happen is long forgotten – the two are hopelessly caught in their infinitive mission to wait. Whatever happens on their wait can only be absurd and irrelevant. Their spectre of thought has become timeless and meaningless, but they are together and therefore have a friend close-by and this means conversation and for some dignity routine and rituals, no matter how exhausted these are.  

With no feeling of time, day and night are loosely coordinated around the moon rising – then music is being made, an amateurish tune of harmonica and castanets. It makes them smile though. A shepherd’s boy popping by every now and again does not bring their mission of waiting forward but more distraction finally does arrive: Diva-like Pozzo stops by, with his slave Lucky on a rope, referred to as a Schwein (pig). The horrible treatment between master and servant shocks Didi and Gogo but the moral involvement against so much feudalistic flamboyance exhausts them and so they join the bully until they continue their journey without any mission or aim. 

With the opening of the second half the tree has grown Minecraft leaf cubes but other than that nothing has changed. When the waiting gets too tiring, suicide is being considered but never executed because of the lack of fitting accessories. The shepherd boy contributes no value to the wait and when Pozzo and Lucky reappear with no recalling of their previous encounter, yet another time loop seems exhausted and expired. 

You can watch Waiting for Godot as an anti-play in which only rudiments of philosophical bonmots about the meaning of life and time and togetherness have made it to the final script, with all remaining witticisms immediately shattered by yet another bizarre non-turn of the story. 

Thanks to the brilliant cast handling this thankless text, I had a fantastic evening and it would have not been half as good if I had not been in company with someone similarly excited about ticking this modern classic off the theatre-goer bucket list. However, I do not think I have to see it again for the next decade or two. 

Written by Samuel Beckett

*** out of 5 stars

We paid 40 Euro incl. fees for each ticket in row 1

You can catch Warten auf Godot again in Munich’s Volkstheater on 23 June, 4 July and 21 July.

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