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Review of “Waiting for Godot” 28th May 2006




What happens when one waits for their suffering to end and it never does? This is what the audience of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” finds out in the daring production presented at the Teatro Hebraica (Jewish Theatre) in Rio de Janeiro directed by Thierry Tremouroux . As the audience arrives at the theatre, the actors can be seen everywhere except on stage. They are standing in the isles, sitting in the audience seats and climbing tall ladders strategically put against the high ceiling walls of the theatre. They are talking to imaginary people, commenting on what they are wearing: “Oh! That’s a lovely hat you have on”, wishing them a good day and welcoming them to today’s show. They instruct the real people, the audience, to take their seats on stage, which is completely void of any set or actors but has instead been filled with plastic chairs. The actors, all dressed in white unconventional costumes, using ropes instead of belts and wrongly buttoned down linen shirts, instruct us to take a seat on the stage. We do as we are told and the surreal experience begins.

It’s not only until I hear beautiful Italian words being spoken from a distance that I spot the leading actress Carina Haller (Estragon) and actor Arley Veloso (Vladmir) sitting on the ledge of the theatre’s mezzanine. It’s from out there that the brilliant actors perform the opening scene of the play. Their powerful voices and clear diction are music to my ears even across the 300 seats that separate us. Their acting is so strong that I have no problem understanding them, even as they speak in a mixture of Portuguese, English and Italian. It’s the opening scene of the play and I am already hooked, filled with curiosity as to what other creative choices these artists will make with this well-known piece of text.

As expected, the play continues to excite me. “Waiting for Godot” is a wordy, chunky play with big ideas that can easily drive audiences to be disinterested. But not in Mr. Tremouroux’s version. Known to create exciting experimental theater, he has given his typical surreal flair to this show. I am surprised when the actors pop up from windows, theatre seats and isles. Carina Haller has me doubled over in laughter several times until she captivates me with the density of Estragon’s complex thoughts, reminding me that this play is in fact about an existentialist crisis.

The creativity of this production is endless. The actors use props as metaphor – the tree that gives Estragon and Vladimir the idea to hang themselves is represented by a blown up balloon of the Eifel Tower, which later ironically is used as a pillow to sleep on, the drinking mug is a shoe and the food, shoelace spaghetti. At the end of the show, I ask the director about his choice not to use conventional set pieces and he explains that the actors went through a rigorous research on the way the homeless people in Rio de Janeiro live and as it turns out, they live with very limited objects which like in the play serve many different purposes. According to the director: “The work the actors did with the homeless community fueled the characters and the concept I wanted for the play.”

The most iconic scene of “Waiting for Godot”, the scene in which Estragon (Carina Haller) and Vladmir (Arley Veloso) contemplate suicide, had me cringing in my seat. Ms. Haller and Mr. Veloso go through an energetic repetitive sequence of movements, requiring a lot of stamina, which reminds me of the dada art movement, which relies on repetition to trick the brain into a state of desperation. When I spoke to Ms. Haller about this sequence she told me: “Thierry told us he wanted this show to be as uncomfortable as possible to watch, from the audience sitting on stage instead of in comfortable seats, to the picture we painted of the homeless. I could not think of an art form more uncomfortable than Dadaism. So I researched the dada movement and was inspired by it to create a series of repetitive movements to display the horror and the fear that homeless people go through in Rio. Brazil has a history of social and economic struggles and the most affected by them are the people living in poverty. That’s how uncomfortable and repetitive their hopeless lives are each and every day. It was about time someone spoke for them. "

The Belgian director who has lived in Brazil for the past 20 years and directed many classic plays in Rio de Janeiro, said that it wasn’t easy to cast this production, especially the role of Estragon. In a post show conversation he noted: "I auditioned many actresses to play Estragon. The character is male, so my first obstacle was to find an actress who could play a young homeless man. All the characters written by Beckett are deeply complex. This play specifically deals with depression and suicide so I needed an actress with serious talent. Thirdly, I wanted some lines to be spoken in Italian the romantic intimacy between the characters would be at the forefront of any drama. When I met Carina and had her read for the part, I knew she was the one. There were no other actresses quiet like her."

This phenomenal performance is worth seeing. It will not only make you laugh and cry simultaneously but it will also challenge your thoughts of what a classic play can be.


WAITING FOR GODOT
Directed by Thierry Tremoroux
Assistant Director: Suzana Nascimento
Cast: Carina Haller (Estragon), Arley Veloso (Vladmir), Bernardo Falcone   (Godot), Carolina Ferman(Pozo), Laura Prado(Lucky) and Veronica Debom(Boy).
Where: Teatro Hebraica Rio de Janeiro (http://www.hebraicario.com.br)


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