Samuel Beckett’s 1949 play “Waiting for Godot” is an absurdist play in which Estragon and Vladimir, Gogo and Didi, wait for Godot. As they wait, they pass the time talking about life, the past, the future, taking off their boots, their hats, and putting them on again. The two acts mirror each other and follow a similar sequence: Gogo and Didi are reunited, they have a conversation about their separation and reunion, they meet Pozzo and Lucky (a Hegelian master/slave couple,) they wait for Godot, the night falls, and they sleep. It is a play about relationships, the human experience, and the absurdity of a life spent waiting.
When I read Godot, I feel immense tenderness. Didi and Gogo’s love and their exploration of relationships, encapsulate the human experience for me. They are lovers, friends, brothers, and sometimes enemies. They fight and make up, take care of each other, and depend on their relationship to stay alive. There is something about putting two human beings on stage waiting, that allows for all of humanity to be fleshed out. There is no urgency, only the opportunity for life to be examined, exposed, and made fun of. Like in Tehching Hsieh’s one-year time clock piece, I am transported into the body in the performance, I become Didi and Gogo, I pass time. They are empty vessels filled with humanity, and Godot is everything we hope will validate our lives. I am afraid I feel too tender towards this play to analyze it properly. But looking at it’s context, it makes sense that these should be two human beings experimenting how to live – and wait – together. There is only so much I know about trench life in WWII, but I think there must be something about living with someone whom you barely know but upon whom your life depends on, that forces you to create relationships, to care for each other, to be together. The comradely experience of WWII trench life, distilled and explored in Becket’s play, is a beautiful way of thinking about humanity as a whole. War has a way of tearing off the tissue of formality that our society is built upon. In a trench, you are a soldier, a body, and nothing else. There is no time for plot, for climax, for the mudane; it is a unique and unfortunate circumstance in which you wait for an order, for an answer, for a letter, but do nothing else. And the man next to you becomes your brother, your father, your lover, your friend; and so the human experience is condensed.
I go back and forward. I want to see the play staged as it is described, the boots, the coats, the hats; I want to see a proper Godot. But I also want to see it where I don’t expect it, where a society begs to take a moment and reflect upon itself, where we need to take a break and wait for Godot. But how would that look like? Recognizing the moment in time when Godot needs to be performed again, when society has forgotten the absurdity of its own life, is a challenge in and of itself. And then when you do, how do you stage it? I guess it is more about when to stage Godot than how; it is about the place, the people, and the moment in time when this play needs to surface once more.