Miles Kington: An angry young man in a tired old country waits for Godot

'That's the trouble with this sodding country! You make an arrangement which could change your life and you are let down flat!'
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The Independent Online

Samuel Beckett was born 100 years ago this week. Fifty years ago, the British theatre was rocked by the arrival of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger. To celebrate both great events in one package, I programmed the mighty Independent computer to reproduce part of Waiting for Godot. As John Osborne would have written it... It whirred and clicked for a while, then produced this.

A country road. A tree. An ironing board. Estragon is ironing a shirt. Enter Vladimir.

Estragon: Bloody shirt.

Vladimir: What?

Estragon: This bloody shirt!

Vladimir: What about it?

Estragon: I can't get the cuffs right. Every time I put the iron up the sleeve, it ... Oh, Jesus!

Vladimir: What now?

Estragon: I've broken the button, that's what! Why can't they make proper buttons in this bloody country? Everything is falling to bits! The cotton snaps ... the buttons break ... the threads unravel ... the Government falls to bits ... the trains break down ... it's a tired old country we live in, gradually coming to the end of its tether, and giving up - a bit like an old woman sitting in an old folk's home, remembering the old glory days but now going quietly mad in a pile of her own incontinence!

Vladimir: You could get a new button.

Estragon: Where am I going to get a new button from? Look around you! Do you see a shop anywhere?

Vladimir: Why do you have to iron a shirt, anyway?

Estragon: I have to look my best for when Godot comes. You know what he's like.

Vladimir: He's not coming.

Estragon: He always plays hell if you're not looking your best. Stupid bastard. What does it matter if there aren't regimental creases in your trousers ... What did you say?

Vladimir: He's not coming. He phoned earlier to say he can't make it today.

Estragon: Right. That's it. I have had it up to here with Mr Sodding Godot. I thought I could trust him, but ... That's the whole trouble with this sodding country! You make an arrangement which could change your life, an arrangement which you totally depend on, and at a moment's notice you are let down flat! Nobody has any sense of responsibility any more! No sense of decency or honour! Not that I give a stuff for honour or decency, but ... I tell you what. This country is like some fly-by-night spiv who sells you stuff he doesn't own, tells you what you want to hear, and flogs you his sister too, I wouldn't be surprised.

Vladimir: I thought you said this country was like an old lady in a retirement home.

Estragon: And that too! That too! Whatever I said this country is like, it is like it ... What is Godot doing?

Vladimir: How do you mean, what is he doing?

Estragon: What is he doing instead of meeting us? You said he couldn't come. He must be doing something else. What else is he doing?

Vladimir: I don't know. Ask him.

Estragon: When?

Vladimir: When he comes tomorrow.

Estragon: Oh, he's coming tomorrow, is he? Mr Bloody la de da Godot is condescending to come tomorrow, is he? Well, maybe I won't be here to see him tomorrow. Maybe I've got something better to do tomorrow!

Vladimir: You've got to see him. We owe him the rent on the stall.

Estragon: Well, maybe I'm earning good money tomorrow. Maybe I'm on trumpet with the jazz band, earning good money.

Vladimir: And maybe not.

Estragon: That comes well from you, you pathetic excuse for a human being! When have you ever done anything to help us? When have you ever shown the slightest sign of initiative? I can honestly say that I have had more rewarding relationships with hand puppets than I have with ... Oh, bugger.

Vladimir: What's wrong.

Estragon: I've just made a burn mark on the collar.

Etc, etc, etc. Tomorrow, an extract from 'Look Back In Anger', written by Samuel Beckett!

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