VLADIMIR: We have kept our appointment and that’s an end to that. We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?
ESTRAGON: Billions.

One of the main things I miss about London is the easy access to great theatre. Since moving to Italy 15 years ago I can count on one hand the amount of plays I’ve seen. Partly this is to do with navigating the language barrier (thankfully, less of an issue these days) but this is also due to a relative lack of  available shows in the provincial town of Cesena , where I live.

However, as a big admirer of Samuel Beckett, I didn’t want to pass up the chance of seeing a touring production of Waiting For Godot (Aspettando Godot) at the Teatro Bonci, by a theatre company from Genoa (Teatro Stabile di Genova).

The play was ably directed by Marco Sciaccaluga although I had a few quibbles. The first is that the brief  incidental music by Andrea Nocolini  is incongruous because  this a play about filling silence with words not sound.

Secondly,  the occasional dimming of the lights (presumably to suggest time passing) is not part of Beckett’s precise stage directions and is an irritating distraction. The end of the two acts are both in semi darkness which weakens the effect of the closing lines and non action of each where Gogo and Didi say: “ Shall we go? / Yes, let’s go” but do not move.

I also found  the portrayal of Pozzo (played by Gianluca Gobbi) to be heavy-handed and exaggerated the excesses of the man. Pozzo is meant to be overbearing, condescending, cruel and pompous but here he looks too much like a caricature pimp/villain. He (and Lucky) both wear large cod pieces so they look like well-hung circus entertainers.

Lucky must be one of the most difficult roles for actors. As Pozzo’s slave he is brutalised and treated like a dog. He only speaks once when he puts on his ‘thinking hat’ and launches into a monologue that  has been well described as full of  “seeming sense and evident nonsense”. This is often regarded as a parody of academic thinking in the way he tries feebly to string incoherent phrases and ideas together. Roberto Serpi with a shock of white hair both looked and sounded right.

The main success of the play was down to  the two respected Italian actors Ugo Pagliai as Estragon (‘Gogo’) and Eros Pagni as Vladimir (‘Didi’).  Both were excellent as the quibbling old men who bemoan their lot and declare their wish to be alone yet are mutually dependent on each other.

Beckett’s plays are often regarded as bleak and heavy but his genius was that he recognised the comic potential in tragedy and the human plight of passing our brief time on the planet without any  realistic hope of an afterlife, is perhaps the greatest tragedy of them all.

Waiting For Godot retains its power by presenting this fate with unflinching honesty and humour and none of this was lost in translation.