Waiting For Godot, Theatre Royal, Bath

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The Independent Culture

How different for us these days, accustomed not only to the piece itself but to the drama that it has influenced (Pinter, Stoppard et al). There was a revealing moment at the packed matinée where I caught Hall's anniversary production. Richard Dormer's virtuosic delivery of Lucky's mad torrent of a quasi-metaphysical monologue got a big round of applause. This struck me as worryingly inappropriate. The true human response to the slobbering slave's long scream of pain is surely not the kind of ovation that follows a successfully executed tricky aria in an opera. Are we in danger of treating Godot as a familiar ritual?

This production is beautifully inflected, funny, superbly cast, at times piercingly poignant - and just a tiny bit cosy. Hall has the best feel of any director for the musicality of Beckett's dialogue - rightly recognising that the cross-talking music-hall rhythms require light Irish accents - and he orchestrates the intricate repetitions and variations of phrase and gesture with masterly precision and an acute grasp of the poetic pattern.

Terence Rigby gives the sadistic Pozzo a wonderfully smug squire's sonority, while Dormer is transfixingly piteous as the wheezing, desperately obedient Lucky.

James Laurenson and Alan Dobie are first-rate at projecting the interdependence of the central pair, who carry on blathering, like some existential version of Derby and Joan, though everything has been said before. Laurenson's Didi, a battered would-be toff, is the perfect foil for Dobie's glum Gogo who, despite his sceptical thrusts ("What do we do now, now that we are happy?"), needs his companion as much as he himself is needed.

To 3 September (01225 448844)

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