I went to see Waiting for Godot on Friday 13 August at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. Sir Ian McKellen was in the cast. I must admit that I did mainly go to the show to see him. How often does Cape Town get to see such a well known and great actor in such an intimate setting?
A work colleague of one of my friends said that it was necessary to read about the play before going to the theatre, otherwise we wouldn’t understand it. None of us had done that. We also bought a programme to read about the play beforehand, but the programme itself gave no hint of the story. All we knew is that the play is about two tramps waiting for godot.
I found the play delightful, funny, poignant, sad, irritating – sometimes at the same time. For me it is a very layered play. There were many personalities, complexities, simplicities, scenarios, quirks represented by the different characters. It was, for me, about life and how we limit ourselves, about habits, how we forget why we are here. It was about those important interactions in our lives that keep us going and keep us always aware of who we truly are, it is about forgiveness and acceptance, and forgetfulness and the realisation that we do have choices in our lives.
It is the kind of play that transcends cultures and understanding. It doesn’t require any pre-knowledge. It just requires that one comes to the experience with an open heart and an open mind.
I do have to confess that I did ‘do’ the play when I was at university, but I had completely forgotten the story. Is exposure to literary culture wasted when one is young and filled with passion, and learning is a bit of a chore? Maybe it is. But I have always thought that if I had not had that exposure then, I would not appreciate the literature and the culture that I appreciate now.
Sir Ian McKellen was a wonderful performer, as was the whole cast. When we were standing at the bar with our pre-theatre drinks, McKellen came into the foyer. Totally unassuming, he looked like an old, scruffy man (as if he was already inhabiting his character) as he ambled backstage.
I feel enriched by the whole experience: being with friends, going to the Fugard theatre, seeing Sir Ian McKellen perform, the overall quality of the acting, the play itself .