The Waiting game
What was the first play you ever saw? Well pantomimes aside, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot was the first play Judy Hegarty Lovett ever saw in a tiny theatre in Cork and she is now about to direct a new production of Beckett's masterpiece at this year's Dublin Theatre Festival.
"My memory of it was that it was different to anything I had ever seen before, it was a very intimate theatre and it was completely compelling," Judy told me this week.
She was particularly struck as a young teenager by the relationship between the characters Pozzo and Lucky and that somebody on stage had a rope around their neck.
"We were getting very intimate portrayals of their feelings and what they felt for each other and I hadn't seen that on stage before."
I've only seen Godot once, and it was the acclaimed Gate theatre production starring Barry McGovern and Johnny Murphy. It was directed by Walter Asmus, Beckett's assistant director on the famous Schiller Theatre production. Anyone who takes on this play must feel a sense of history, a sense of responsibility. Judy agrees but believes that there is no such thing as a definitive production of this play or indeed any theatre piece.
"What we are doing is bringing in a new cast which brings its own music to the work and, in terms of Gare St Lazare Players, we are next in line to do this as we have been steeped in Beckett's work for the last 20 years. We have 17 Beckett titles under our belt, so we are very well-placed to do the next Godot."
Gare St Lazare Players tour extensively and are internationally regarded to be among the finest interpreters of Beckett's work. Joint artistic directors Judy Hegarty Lovett (director) and Conor Lovett (actor) have gained a reputation for artistic excellence.
This Godot is being hailed as "a major new production", but just how much can you do with this play as director and indeed how much does Beckett allow you to do?
"The directions are very specific and we would be intent on remaining very close to them and very respectful to those directions," says Judy.
However, she believes that there is always room for nuance within any sort of tight scope and she would expect that to happen inevitably.
The casting is crucial. Conor Lovett will play the role of Vladimir. It will be his third time playing the role and his 25th Beckett production.
Gary Lydon (The Clinic) will play Estragon and Gavan O'Herlihy will return to Ireland to play the role of Pozzo. Gavan has enjoyed a long career in film and television including the Bond villain in Never Say Never Again. Tadhg Murphy, Judy tells me, is beyond thrilled to be playing the role of Lucky.
Of course, everyone is constantly trying to work out what Godot is about? Beckett himself never gave a definitive answer and seemed open to a variety of readings. Judy is with Beckett on this and wouldn't dream of imposing her ideas on the audience. She seems particularly excited about bringing this production to a new generation and to those who haven't seen the play before.
Beckett can scare some people away but Judy can't see why and urges potential audience members not to be afraid!
"It's not about going in there and knowing what Beckett is about, it's about going in yourself and making your own decision about what you think of the work. It is for you to make out what the work is about, not for anybody to tell you."
The 60th anniversary production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is a co-production by Gare St Lazare Players Ireland and Dublin Theatre Festival. It runs at The Gaiety Theatre Dublin, (October 3-6). See www.dublintheatrefestival.com
Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun 1-4pm) on RTÉ lyric fm.