There has been a bit of a brouhaha around this revival of Samuel Beckett’s existential masterpiece thanks to the casting of twentysomethings Tom Stourton and Tom Palmer (aka Old Etonian comedy duo Totally Tom) in the traditionally grizzled roles of temporally trapped tramps Vladimir and Estragon.
It’s not a totally radical move – Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson were only a splash older when they did the same roles – but it’s certainly pretty relaxed by the infamously prickly standards of the Beckett estate.
I’m not sure it really achieves a lot, though. Considering the pair’s relative inexperience they acquit themselves respectably. Palmer is a nervy, nerdy Vladimir, twitching and pacing like a little trapped animal as he formulaically insists the pair wait under a desolate tree for the enigmatic Mr Godot to arrive. And as Estragon, Stourton is Palmer’s negative: big, noisy, for some reason Irish, less self-aware but more given to extremes of emotion.
It’s a loud production that gives the pair a chance to flex their physical comedy muscles. And there is perhaps the hint of a suggestion that in their youth they represent Generation Austerity, condemned to wait for a future that will never arrive.
It’s only a hint, though – really it doesn’t feel like director Simon Dormandy has overthought the significance of his leads’ ages. Maybe I shouldn’t either, then, but their inexperience does tell – despite the filthiness of the duo’s bodies, it’s hard to believe they’ve been working for Godot anything like an eternity, or bound to each other for years, and towards the end you feel their grip on the text slowly sliding. It’s a presence issue, as much as anything – when veteran actor Jonathan Oliver’s wideboy Pozzo barges in, you barely remember the show’s stars are still there.
A solid, fringey production, though: you wouldn’t want to wait forever to get a ticket, but it’s not purgatorial, either.