During the premiere of Waiting for Godot at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris on 5 January 1953, heckles, boos, and cat calls had been so loud that at one point the curtain had to come down and the play was put on hold. Today, 70 years on from its initial mixed reception, Waiting for Godot is the most frequently performed 20th century play throughout the world, writes Evan Raftery
Few works of literature have been more discussed, dissected, and debated than Samual Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, the enigmatic play that premiered at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris on 5 January, 1953.
Four years earlier, Beckett had found himself at loose ends, worn out from the psychological rigours of composing his difficult trilogy of novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable.
As Beckett himself put it, “I began to write Godot as a relaxation, to get away from the awful prose I was writing at the time.” Ironically, this diversion would eventually become his best known work.
Today, Waiting for Godot holds the accolade of being the most frequently performed 20th century play throughout the world, yet the entire drama centres on two derelict characters who do little other than fritter away their time, waiting for Godot.
Accounting for the play’s popularity is no easy feat. One early reviewer described the two-act drama as “a play in which nothing happens, twice.”
The illusive work has divided generations of researchers, scholars, and academics, with a seemingly exhaustless list of possible meanings and interpretations. It has been seen as an allegory of the Cold War, the Holocaust, and the Irish Famine; some describe its purpose as the absence of purpose, or as a metaphor for metaphors.
Some believe it holds the key that unlocks the secrets of human existence, while others merely deem it pretentious nonsense.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own