Photo by Tom Lawlor
Alan Stanford has been playing Pozzo for the Gate Theatre Dublin’s much-heralded production of Waiting for Godot since he was 36. He’s 51 now, and feels that, more often than not, productions of the play get short shrift because they tend to be done by “black-box companies full of people who look like they’ve been together two semesters, not 15 years.”
The time and other resources invested in his Godot have allowed it to breathe, he says. The production has just arrived at UCLA, capping a tour through American universities, mostly in the Midwest. Stanford says that over the years, his portrayal has become leaner: “When you start out, you discover all the things you need. As you grow older, you discover all the things you don’t need. The production has grown more casual in its cruelty. It’s lonelier. The other actors appear to care less, which exemplifies the inevitability of their fate.”
The play is directed by Walter Asmus, who, in his 1988 German translation, subtly revised the text. Beckett was so struck by Asmus’ work, he rewrote his own play in Celtic-flavored Hyberno-English, cut three pages and worked with Asmus on the staging. At UCLA, therefore, we’re seeing “Asmus’ staging, as Beckett staged it.”
Asked about the difference in reaction between American and Irish audiences, Stanford says, “In Dublin, they understand the play idiomatically. Here, it has to be explained. I was born in England, and when we came to Lincoln Center a couple of years ago, I used my English accent. Clive Barnes wrote that I was using the accent to comment on the English domination of the Irish, which was certainly news to me.
“One of the things that baffles me about this trip is that, perhaps because we’re performing in centers of academia, we tend to get the same question: ‘When you decide to do Godot, what do you choose to make it about?’ There seems to be a desire among more educated people that there has to be a central idea, rather than the play itself just being about waiting, and unhappiness. Nothing is funnier than unhappiness. If the play hits home, it’s about everything. If not, it’s about nothing.”
The Gate Theatre Dublin’s production of Waiting for Godot is performed at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse; Thursday-Saturday, October 26-28, 8 p.m.; Sunday, October 29, 2 p.m. Call (310) 825-2101.