Veteran director tackles tough material

Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” running at Key City Theatre

Estragon (left

Estragon (left

Ferdy Belland

Paul Kershaw shows no sign of either slowing his pace or narrowing his artistic scope in the world of Cranbrook live theatre. Case in point: the East Kootenay debut of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist classic “Waiting for Godot;” the curtain rises Wednesday, Jan. 21, through Saturday, Jan. 24, at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre.

Kershaw explains his inspiration to tackle something out of the ordinary.

“Over the last five years I’ve done several Shakespeare productions, namely ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ And I’ve done my fair share of musical theatre, interspersed with plays like ‘Lips Together, Teeth Apart,’ ‘House of Blue Leaves,’ ‘Noises Off,’ ‘Lettuce and Loveage.’

“I took a year off to think: what would interest me to direct again? Very early on in my career, I learned that you can’t make good theatre without good literature. And so, directing Shakespearean plays was great, since I know that’s good literature, and then it suddenly dawned on me that Beckett’s ‘Godot’ is a classic, and has never been done around here — and I would like to try it.”

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. His work displays a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, incorporating black humour and gallows humour into his writing. Widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th Century, he is one of the key writers in the so-called “Theatre of the Absurd,” and was awarded the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize for Literature.

“The big thing about Beckett is that his scripts are very musical,” Kershaw said. “All five characters in ‘Godot” clue in very easily into the rhythms of the play. I haven’t actually seen any live productions of ‘Godot’ before. I haven’t even seen it on TV! But I’m very happy with how our own vision and version of the play has come together onstage. We’ve certainly gone in a different direction than Beckett wanted to go; Beckett wanted us out on a country road with nothing around but a scraggly tree and an old bench…and we put the setting in the middle of a city. I don’t know whether Beckett would appreciate our version of his production…or whether he’d roll over in his grave! I believe we have a pretty good production. We have some wonderful actors.”

Said actors include Barry Coulter as Vladimir, Barry Borgstrom as Estragon, Dave Prinn as Pozzo, Mark Casey as Lucky, and Austin McAra as the Boy.

“These four guys are really dedicated to what they want to do, and the biggest chore for everybody has been the huge memory work. It’s not a traditional script where lines naturally flow. So everybody has worked very diligently to memorize lines; consequently, rehearsals have been pretty straight-forward and fairly easy.”

“Waiting for Godot” originally debuted in 1953. The basic plotline involves two dishevelled tramps (Vladimir and Estragon) who existentially bicker with each other while awaiting the arrival of the mysterious Godot. Their discussions veer  between the half-shared recollection of dreams, suspicions of nocturnal beatings, thoughts of mutual suicide, bizarre jokes, theology, and gnawing hunger. The appearance of the clownish master-and-slave duo of Pozzo and Lucky (and a messenger boy) escalate the pandemonium. Much heated debate and deep interpretation have been dumped upon the play by critics for over 60 years; audiences will encounter references to religion, philosophy, psychoanalysis, ritualism — as well as pure vaudeville and slapstick comedy.

Kershaw is convinced that East Kootenay audiences will walk away entertained, as well as carry away the experience of having witnessed something quite special in the local arts world.

“A lot of people have heard about “Waiting for Godot,” but not very many people have actually seen it in action. Now here’s their chance!”

Paul Kershaw presents Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece “Waiting for Godot” at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre Wednesday, Jan.21 through Saturday,Jan.24; showtimes 7:30 pm sharp. Tickets: $20 at the door, or available online via www.keycitytheatre.com.