Waiting for Godot at the End of the World

Roger Hilton, Untitled, 1953


Comment on the staging of Samuel Beckett's play by Teatro Oficina

In a television interview, actress Giulia Gam highlighted the depth of text reading she experienced when directed by José Celso Martinez Corrêa, Teatro Oficina, in the play cacilda.

Watch the montage of Waiting for Godot at the End of the World, by this theatrical group, directed by the same José Celso, makes it clear that such depth does not mean literally transposing the dramatic text to orality and body movement, more sets, make-up, lighting and costumes. José Celso Martinez Corrêa interprets the writing and transforms it into scenic actions, as in a transcreation, even including changes in the characterization of characters.

An example of this is the introduction of Exu/Zé Pilintra as messenger(s)/communicator(s) and smiley(s), classic attributes of those Afro-Brazilian entities. It unfolds in the mentions, in speech, of the names of Grande Otelo and Paulo Gustavo, very expressive Brazilian actors of comic cinema and television; and in the identification of the character Wladimir as Didi, which appears in Becket's original and, among us, refers to one of the Trapalhões (television comic group), played by Renato Aragão.

Os clowns from the original by Samuel Beckett are Brazil and its comic interpretation, which includes the transformation of Pozzo into Bozo, which evokes a television clown and the derogatory nickname of Jair Bolsonaro, the country's president at the time of this staging, 2022 – the wait is here, now , for us, as reinforced by the projections on screens of scenes of war, environmental destruction and current despotic rulers, devastated land, including images of the public watching the montage.

Godot may be God, Godus, Non-God (God/don't), a combination of God (God, in English) and Gott (God, in German). He does not come: is there tragedy in a world without gods? If there are no gods, what remains of hope belongs to hopeless men and women – humans, all too human.

There are no women in the play, despite previous stagings with female casts (one of them directed by Antunes Filho) and Cacilda Becker having died playing Estragon (directed by Flavio Rangel), in this play: the future devoid of human reproduction has reached the end of the world? Without gods, theatrical catharsis became impossible.

The physical appearance of Wladimir/Didi and Estragon/Gogo suggests figures of beggars or homeless people and reminds Carlitos, O Gordo and O Magro. Pozzo/Bozo evokes businessmen or rulers. And Lucky/Felizardo is the image of the more than informal worker, delivering applications, muted, a puppet tied to a string, under strict control, without rights, but the colors of his clothes echo the costumes of Pozzo/Bozo – joy of McDonalds employees .

To speak of indefinition, in this montage, is a mistake: such a world is ours; of the poor who take care of cars around the theater or sleep with their dogs on the sidewalks nearby; of the spectators who have some money to buy a ticket and see the play; those who control others through the direct view of the scene and also through images projected on several screens; of the actors who embody our world; of the spectators that we more or less see ourselves in all that and are filmed (we become actors and sets) for projection on the same screens.

The montage by José Celso Martinez Corrêa invites these spectators to think about what is exposed, the unavoidable opposite of the pastime, of the search for a time outside of oneself – we are there, under visual control and controlling others.

Characters, actors and audiences travel or are traveled by this waiting, under the sign of dismay: Godot never arrives… Will he arrive?

Waiting for Godot at the End of the World is a play from 1949/1952, staged in French in the year following its completion, post-World War II time, loss of the treasure of the French Resistance and other nationalities to Nazism (according to the poet René Char, who did not refer to this work, quoted by Hannah Arendt in the book Between the past and the future), birth of a UN divided from the beginning (1945), memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fear of the nuclear threat, Joseph Stalin still alive, McCarthyism and apartheid in the US, memory loss before the movie Last year in Marienbad (1961), by Alain Resnais, with a script by the novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet, loss of hope in alternation, devastated land, even without explicit war – but there are always wars in progress (Korea, Algeria, then Vietnam, etc.).

Seventy years later, there are other losses, perhaps even worse (end of welfare state, neoliberal triumph, self-annihilation of the USSR and the European socialist bloc, China leveraging capitalism – acquisition of US Treasury bills, participation of private companies in its economy, appalling working conditions – and which is designated as if it were still communist) and a worldwide reinforcement of dictatorships, provoked ecological disasters, Russia/Ukraine war, new nuclear threats and explicit defenses, in many countries, of more than truculent neo-Nazisms – ex-Yugoslavia, Hungary, Philippines, Brazil.

The loss of these memories means maintaining the validity of disasters – one of the statements recalls that one is not a historian, history has been lost... But that statement may just be another way of reaffirming history: comically, Didi has memories, even the antagonist Gogo perhaps possess and repress them.

We are in the place of the lack of space for the miserable, of the misery for those who work, of the unlimited power of the bosses and rulers. We are inside all of this, what is our place? Sunless weather in the Land of the Sun. time without rights. Aches and pains remain for the vast majority. Pozzo/Bozo dominates, becomes blind, continues to dominate, agonizes, perhaps he died along with Lucky/Felizardo, perhaps they will be replaced by similar ones. Farewell to the revolution is not a party, it stages nothingness.

The one who arrives, effectively, is Exu/Zé Pilintra, with a brief laugh and an awareness of death (he informs that Godot has died) – but also an awareness of life (the characters present there are alive, the tree, dry and a candidate for support for a rope after hanging, it had leaves again); some change may take place, freed from that waiting. More than a spectacle of despondency, the play denounces this despondency.

Exu/Zé Pilintra and Godot, projections of human beings, are all of us, characters, actors and spectators, inside and outside the theater.

Hope is in our hands – or it won't exist! If we don't make the changes, nobody will make them for us.

* Mark Silva is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP.



Waiting for Godot at the End of the World

Text: Samuel Beckett. Translation: Catherine Hirsch and Veronica Tamaoki.

Directed by: José Celso Martinez Correa.

Production: Teatro Oficina Uzyna Uzona. Characters/Cast: Estragão/Gogo (Marcelo Drummond), Vladimir/Didi (Alexandre Borges), Pozzo/Bozo (Ricardo Bittencourt), LuckyFelizardo (Roderick Himeros) and Messenger (Tony Reis).

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