Review: Godot Was A Woman
Ban women from performing your play and you become a hostage to fortune and more to the point ridicule. For ridicule was at the heart of the production of Godot Was A Woman by the Silent Faces as they sent up the late Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s dictate that women should not perform his absurdist tragic-comedy drama Waiting For Godot.
Beckett used the law on more than one occasion to exclude women from performing the play and since his death his estate have maintained his misogynistic wishes leading to rebel productions and Godot Was A Woman. Using mainly physical theatre or as Silent Faces describe it as ‘metaphorical, playful theatre to push the boundaries of clown and physical theatre in a contemporary political context’ the cast of three opened the show with a comic phone call to the Beckett Estate in which they were put on hold as the 924th caller.
The drama explored the absurdity of having to ask permission to perform Vladimir and Estragon’s long wait with music, movement and mime as well as powerful dialogue including a potted history of women seeking to perform the play and a comic court scene. The cast of Josie Underwood, Jack Wakely and Cordelia Stevenson were brilliantly interchangeable with their Godot-esque attire of ill-fitting ragged suits and bowler hats. Their expressions, their clowning, their interaction with the audience kept the full house in Axbridge Town Hall engaged throughout the ‘tragic-comedy in two acts’ just as Beckett’s original had aimed to do.
Performed in the round with a minimalist set of a rock, some twigs and the odd prop such as a telephone the five-star production was given added power with thumping music extolling female empowerment. Nobody was going to fall asleep during the show that was for sure. And speaking to fellow theatre goers the overwhelming response to the show was ‘a bit different’ and ‘thought provoking’ and perhaps more importantly ‘entertaining.’
Unlike Waiting For Godot in which ‘nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes – it’s awful’ Godot Was A Woman is full of neat choreographed action, visual jokes, dance and witty and provocative dialogue as society’s cultural straightjacket on writers, performers and producers who are female or non-binary was lampooned. A pity as Waiting For Godot is compulsive viewing – not so much for its lack of action but for the dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon and with Pozzo and his slave Lucky. It’s a universal allegory of life’s futility which should be open to all performers to stage. And in tribute to Waiting For Godot the production drew on its costumes, set and style to echo the strange and ambiguous world of Beckett’s play.
Other plays such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar have been produced with role reversals (Julia Caesar and her husband warning her of her impending doom) and who knows perhaps we’ll eventually have a female pope one day. The idea that a playwright can specify who can perform a drama is both futile and improbable – but it has fired the creativity of the devised drama writers of Silent Faces to produce an excellent piece of theatre.
The drama was promoted by Somerset’s Take Art. For more on their productions and work visit https://takeart.org/
For more on Silent Faces visit https://www.silentfaces.uk/
To hire Axbridge Town Hall visit https://www.axbridgetownhall.co.uk/
There’s more at www.harrymottram.co.uk – follow Harry Mottram and Harry the Spiv on Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and God knows where else.