Published: 21/03/2009 00:00 - Updated: 26/03/2009 17:11

Waiting for Godot



Milton Keynes Theatre until

Saturday, March 21

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart onstage in Waiting for Godot

If you want to find a more complete, sublime and classic example of theatrical excellence, you'll have to go a pretty long way to beat this highly anticipated production.

Director Sean Mathias has assembled surely the dream cast of all dream casts for a revival of arguably the 20th century's most seminal play. The result is triumphant on all possible counts.

Patrick Stewart can occasionally be a little lugubrious for my taste, but his pivotal performance as Vladimir, one of the two dishevelled tramps doing the titular waiting, is as fine a model of theatre acting as you could hope to see.

He displays a wonderful deftness of touch with the comedy, matched by deep pathos in the more affecting passages, and he commands the stage every moment he's there.

Beside him, Ian McKellen turns in an equally masterful performance as his partner, Estragon, his timing judged to perfection and his mannerisms acutely studied.

Together they're a peerless double act. But there's more. Two veteran stalwarts, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup, are on hand to lend meaty support in the difficult roles of Pozzo and Lucky, whose interruption of the waiting helps provide an uneasy passing of the time.

Callow is majestically over the top as Pozzo, while Pickup, in the toughest job of the four, offers a bizarre creation of dominated slavery with the aid of just his physical presence and one extraordinary monologue.

Among an evening of stunning dramatic quality, there are plenty of highlights, from the inspired precision with which Stewart and McKellen deliver Samuel Beckett's carefully poetic dialogue to the decaying grandeur of the amazing set.

At its heart, Mathias retains a clear and defining sense of Beckett's exploration of the absurd and nonsensical, creating an utterly comprehensive, beautiful and flawlessly performed piece of theatre.
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