Arion Lyre

77. Godot, an imaginary staging by William T. Wiley

Beckett and Godot

David Littlejohn writes in the Introduction: “A hundred years after his birth, fifty-four years after the premiere of his most famous work, thirty-seven years after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Samuel Beckett, it could be argued, needs no introduction and no defense. But, to many people, his works still cry out for explanations—explanations that Beckett himself adamantly refused to give.

“As Estragon—one of the two shabby, starving waiters-for-Godot—says in this play, ‘Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!’ Which is not 100 percent true. In two similar acts, set a day apart in the same barren Nowhere, Estragon and his old friend Vladimir have their fruitless wait for Godot interrupted first by the arrival of an arrogant, overbearing character named Pozzo and his slave Lucky, whom his master cruelly abuses; then by the arrival of a messenger boy, who tells them (twice) that Mr. Godot can’t make it today, but will surely be here tomorrow. At the inconclusive conclusion, failing in their comic attempt to hang themselves from the one tree on the stage, the two homeless wanderers decide to wait another day. And perhaps another. And another.”

Beckett’s stage directions are specific, but some indicators of staging, costumes, and props occur only in dialogue. It is well into the first act before Estragon reveals that he is light and Vladimir is heavy. William T. Wiley has written: “In my staging of Godot there are a lot of potatoes scattered over the stage, which are ignored by the cast. They just shuffle through them or avoid them but do not acknowledge their presence.” Who should put out the potatoes but a stagehand, and who should the stagehand be but Buster Keaton, the pantomimic comedian of silent films and early talkies. Beckett’s interest in Buster was not reciprocated. Wiley’s Buster is a disembodied gloved hand, not a character in the play. He appears before the first act, during intermission, and at the end of the second and final act. As the audience leaves the theater of this book, Keaton collects the potatoes.

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Edition: Folio format, 15 by 10 inches, with fifty colored prints and two other prints in black only. Limited to 300 copies for sale, numbered and signed by the artist. Price: $800.

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