Waiting for Roger

by Brian Easton / 25 December, 2010
We should be so Lucky.

A country road. A tree. Evening.

JOHN: Charming spot. Inspiring prospects. Let's go.

BILL: We can't.

JOHN: Why not?

BILL: We're waiting for economic growth.

JOHN: (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You're sure it was these policies?

BILL: Which?

JOHN: That we were to implement.

BILL: Those we have been doing?

JOHN: Yes.

BILL: And there is no sign of the economic growth?

JOHN: No.

BILL: But it might come tomorrow.

JOHN: Roger said if it did not come today, it would come tomorrow.

BILL: Certainly?

JOHN: Certainly.

BILL: Then we should wait?

JOHN: And economic growth will come?

BILL: If not today, then tomorrow.

JOHN: Roger said it would ...

JOHN: We'll hang ourselves tomorrow. (Pause) Unless economic growth comes.

BILL: And if it comes?

JOHN: We'll be saved.

BILL: Well? Shall we go?

JOHN: Well? Shall we go?

BILL: Yes, let's go.

They do not move.

It's easy to use Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot to parody our angst-ridden economic debate, always promising the arrival of a faster economic growth that, like Godot, never comes. Perhaps Pozzo is even more relevant. When he first appears in the play, the tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, think he might be Godot but they are soon disabused. Pozzo proves arrogant, self-absorbed, bullying, conceited and cruel - one of the most detestable characters in the entire dramatic corpus. His treatment of his slave, Lucky, attached to a long rope that cuts into his neck, is abominable.

So, what exactly Beckett was thinking of when he created Pozzo? When the play was written in the 1940s, there were some brutal dictators (there still are), in which case Lucky may represent their tyran­nised subjects. One of the most painful sequences in the play is when Lucky is ordered to "think", and chants as a rambling monologue a meaningless sequence of incoherent ideas, unable to articulate his own tragedy.

In the second act, a blind Pozzo reappears with Lucky. There is no self-reflection, only the addition of self-pity. One wants to call out to Lucky, "He can't see you, take off your rope, kick him in the shins and run." But the attitudes that underpin the incoherent monologue tie him eternally to Pozzo.

It is a measure of the play's universality - rather than my anachronism - that Pozzo reminds me of members of the international financial community. In act one of the Global Financial Boom they were - oh so - confident about their contribution to the public welfare. In act two, after the crash, they still fail to express doubts about their contribution, continuing to pay themselves obscenely high bonuses. There is no self-reflection, for they cannot see that the substantial public bailouts that have saved their jobs might suggest they have made less of a contribution than they like to claim. Like the Bourbons, they have forgotten nothing and learnt nothing.

Are we then Lucky, tied to this financial community by a half-baked philosophy? I cannot tell. But I can say many were lucky earlier in the year to see London's Theatre Royal Haymarket Com­pany production of the play, starring Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon), Roger Rees (Vladimir), Matthew Kelly (Pozzo) and Brendan O'Hea (Lucky). The tramps were portrayed as credible human beings with a depth and dignity that in 400 years may see the roles compared to those of Shakespeare's greatest comic characters.

Despite the summary of Waiting for Godot as a play in which "nothing happens - twice", there is a kind of progress. The dead tree of the opening act has leaves in the second act - a glimmering of optimism. The play concludes with the two tramps' recognition that they have each other. If there is a conclusion, it is surely that in this angst-ridden world we still have one another - the message of this time of the year; Merry Christmas.

Latest

A big science investment - but where’s the transparency?
99199 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Tech

A big science investment - but where’s the transpa…

by Peter Griffin

An extra $420m is being pumped into the National Science Challenges - but the reasoning behind the increased investment won't be released.

Read more
NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – and a wild past
99182 2018-11-16 13:32:58Z Music

NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – an…

by Donna Chisholm

We revisit this profile on award-winning guitarist Gray Bartlett, who's just released a new album, Platinum!

Read more
Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on what his creation has become
99178 2018-11-16 13:13:08Z Tech

Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on …

by Peter Griffin

"We were just a bunch of engineers trying to make it work. It didn't even occur to us that anybody would want to wreck it," says Vint Cerf.

Read more
Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of Mary Queen of Scots
99165 2018-11-16 10:51:28Z Win

Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of …

by The Listener

Starring Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart.

Read more
Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct
99155 2018-11-16 09:33:23Z Auckland Eats

Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct

by Alex Blackwood

North Shore residents will have plenty to choose from at Goodside.

Read more
A tribute to the dexterous, powerful and vulnerable Douglas Wright
99153 2018-11-16 08:25:30Z Arts

A tribute to the dexterous, powerful and vulnerabl…

by Sarah Foster-Sproull

To choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, Douglas Wright was both mentor and friend.

Read more
The death of Radio Live
99147 2018-11-16 06:54:48Z Radio

The death of Radio Live

by Colin Peacock

14 years after launching “the new voice of talk radio”, MediaWorks will silence Radio Live. Mediawatch looks at what could replace it.

Read more
Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?
99103 2018-11-16 00:00:00Z Social issues

Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?

by The Listener

For every safety warning, there’ll be a righteous uproar about the public good regarding the environment. It's about finding the right balance.

Read more