These past weekends Saskatoon theatre witnessed a historic moment. Henry Woolf
across the stage surrounded by a formidable cast of actors who all began their acting studies in Saskatoon under his guidance, including director Del Surjik
, and launched a new era for Persephone Theatre.
"I agonized over it, I did, but it's a play I always wanted to do. It affected me deeply as a new, young theatre practitioner," Surjik said of Waiting for Godot.
"I thought it would deliver an introduction of me to the audience and start our conversation together."(Star Phoenix)
Staging a twentieth century masterpiece honours the past and challenges the future. More importantly utilizing the gifts of splendid theatre artists within the community and inviting back to their roots those who sought development elsewhere, Persephone recognized and strengthened the deep human connections that sustain and nurture the immediate place of theatre.
This particular Waiting for Godot created a healing power. Perhaps for Beckett the word plethora was a necessary exorcism to deal with the immensity of the Holocaust and the deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Pathos and wit, brooding silences, visions of torture and hunger, a barefooted child, a pair of boots hauntingly placed as a monument for the audience to ponder while waiting for Act 2 demanded from us not just to make sense of so much senselessness that surrounds us but to take the bold affirmative action to listen - to simply listen to the very fragile human voice of the dispossessed and to listen as their voices reach out achingly to each other.
This particular cast forged a huge act of generosity. Each individual actor pushed the character towards a fullness of human expression with a boundless energy emphatically stating - we are human and it is in our relations we live. The despair of the sterile landscape and its vertical terrain making each step a chore, the solitary struggling tree not strong enough for a hanging, the infinite empty blue sky seemed to dwarf the figures but as we waited and waited and waited the stature of being human grew. Beginning with the long, blank stare and amidst the straight out of vaudville non-existent yet ever so irritating pebble in the boot routine through slap stick hat exchanges and weeping willow word plays provoking groans of laughter a hush descended. The final word speech of Vladimir (Didi) arched out over the audience. We collectively held our breaths and paused with respect. The measured words soared with authority and passion informed by all the wisdom and experience an authentic elder of the theatre could command. Who could have imagined embedded in Beckett was a moving Shakespearian soliloquy. Yet who could deny the flow of theatre through these two masters and their exquisite marriage of image and word.
Peter Brook writes in The Empty Space.
"I know of one acid test in the theatre ... When emotion and argument are harnessed to a wish from the audience to see more clearly into itself - then something in the mind burns. The event scorches on to the memory an outline, a taste, a trace, a smell - a picture. It is the play's central image that remains ..."(152)
This particular performance burnt a lasting image of the surreal moon shining magnificently in the night. The moon is considered by some rational minds to be a dead object made visible by reflected light. The twentieth century actualized the dream to walk the moon and yet none of the associative/metaphorical/aesthetic power of the image has been diminished. The moon shines with all the ancient mystery and lunar forces of tides and female cycles. Pozo and Lucky, blind & dumb, continue their journey - Didi & Gogo, on the verge of going, stay. They stay to release us into the theatre of exploration, the theatre that gives shared meaning, the theatre that breathes life.
Many thanks to Del and team for their courage and audacity. More thanks to Henry, James, Chip, Ralph and Alex for their great tenderness and investment of their truths. Thanks to Persephone Theatre for starting a compelling, new conversation. I'm engaged! Oh and a deep, deep thanks to you Mr. Beckett shining back at us - the old man in the moon.
- See: Theater
:: note :: ... nothing more to say ...
"VLADIMIR: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be?(Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said? He goes feverishly to and fro, halts finally at extreme left, broods. Enter Boy right. He halts. Silence. "(end of Act 2)