Waiting for Waiting for Godot

Theatre, Comedy
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Weak US comedy about two understudies

This welterweight backstage comedy about two dysfunctional understudies working on a production of ‘Waiting for Godot’ is watchable enough. But it’s so thin it’s practically translucent – certainly the first 90-minute show I’ve ever seen to be padded out with an interval – and so derivative of much better, bolder works likes ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ and ‘Noises Off’ as to often feel borderline anonymous.

Part of the problem, perhaps, is that its American author David Hanson actually based ‘Waiting for…’ on his own experiences working on a dodgy LA production of the Samuel Beckett classic. For the cult US hit’s UK premiere, director Mark Bell has transposed the action to England. American accents might have at least given it a slight whiff of novelty. Retooling it for two Brits – Simon Day’s Ester, a plummy old ham, and James Marlowe’s Val a feckless naif –only underscores the (vaguely ironic) sense we’ve been here before. 

Being derivative doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining: there are chuckles to be had about fragile male egos, luvvie pomposity, and the fact nobody really understands Beckett. It’s just that it’s utterly dwarfed by the work it references and its sheer lack of ambition is vaguely affronting. As a ‘Fast Show’ fan it was nice to see Day on stage. But the character of Ester is shallower and more one-note than about 99% percent of those he played on the iconic ’90s sketch programme. It’s okay for an undemanding laugh, but not the comedy London has been waiting for.


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