Telephodot — Threnody, an impression of Godot

A few years ago I shot Threnodya ten-minute personal impression of my favorite modern play, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Threnody is not a film of Godot. I don’t believe that Godot should be made into a movie (apart from simply filming a stage production), because the idiom of film is so different from the living performance of the stage. Beckett went to some lengths to create the play without undue artifice, in part by first writing it in French (to limit any likely linguistic excess), and then translating it into English. He also paid close attention to professional productions of the play (its premiere was in 1953, I believe), and commented on every detail while generally disapproving of innovations (such as producing it in the round, or with an all-woman cast).

The Vimeo version (in 720 HD) can be found here: Threnody.

Godot was a very important influence in my life. I performed in a meticulous and (dare I say) inspired production of it (in the round, mea culpa) with Phil Grey as Vladimir, David Mamet as Estragon, and David Taylor as Lucky, directed by Richard Lear and with incidental music by the great jazz pianist and poet Jed Allen (I was Pozzo). We rehearsed for nearly seven weeks, and by then had digested and assimilated every word and nuance. Each of us could speak the lines of all the other characters. It was a great success, and the people at Canada’s International Pavilion (preserved from what had recently been Expo ’67) invited us to a three-week run.

Unfortunately, not all the cast could go, and we were uncomfortable recreating the performance with one or more new cast members, so the run never happened. Clearly, it would have changed my life and career choices, and possibly those of the other members of the company. I often wonder what (if anything) Mamet might have done differently if we had played in Montreal that summer.

This Godot-inspired video is definitely not the play “on screen.” It’s a visual impression of the timelessness of the play, inadequately remembered, the action seen through a long lens, too far away for dialog to be heard. It appears to have been fabricated from a series of daguerreotype plates from the nineteenth century. There is no true motion, but something mystical is occurring, things seem to be happening — or perhaps not. Those unfamiliar with the play may find it moving, unexpected, possibly significant, and certainly enigmatic. Those who do know Godot will surely recognize it immediately.

I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your comments.

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