REVIEW: Waiting for Godot, Theatre Royal, Brighton

SINCE it first erupted on the placid theatrical waters of 1955, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot has become a modern classic and when I caught up with Sean Mathias' star studded revival at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, the place was full of youngsters taking notes.

For a play that has no plot as such but is simply constructed round two tramps waiting for a mysterious Mr Godot, the lavish nature of the design is surprising and beautiful in a magical way. Upstage there's the crumbling remains of an old building which could be a church or a chateau. Downstage the shell of an old theatre stands out with curved elegant boxes.

All is bathed in the deep blue light of early evening. Given this theatrical slant it's hardly surprising to find the tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, played by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as a double act of yesteryear. Their little dances and songs suggest a turn that can only be split by death.

I found them curiously touching in their willingness to wait against all rational argument for something which may one day turn up to explain the purpose of living.They have been described as metaphysical Micawbers and I can think of no better description.

Simon Callow's Pozzo is the pugnacious bully the character needs to be. Ronald Pickup plays his servant Lucky, who is secured like a dog on the end of a rope. Even so this not so dumb fellow has the longest rant in the play. Pickup rattles it off at great speed but it still lasts several minutes and usually get a spontaneous round of applause.

The big surprise of the evening is to find the play so funny. We wait not so much for Godot as the next laugh.

Mark Gale