Godot at the New Vic

There are many myths surrounding Samuel Beckett and his work. He is famously reported as telling a reporter that if knew what a play had meant, he would have put it in the play. A theatre critic also described Godot as a play in which nothing happens. Twice. His is an enigmatic presence in 20th century theatre; just google a picture of him and you’ll see what I mean – what a face!

You can see what the critic meant. Vladimir and Estragon are two tramps who meet by a tree for two days running to wait for the mysterious Godot. Each day a message is brought by a boy to say that Godot can’t come today, but he is sure to come tomorrow. A conceited land-owner, Pozzi, and his slave, Lucky (a slave called Lucky?), also cross the stage in each half. Beckett plays with our expectations of time and chronology (everything happens twice, challenging us to examine the notion of causality in narrative development), plot, character, and even what it means to be an audience (there are a number of meta-theatrical moments when the central characters gaze in to the crowd and question who we are – as we question who they are). The play is at once a slapstick exchange between two tramps about sore feet and boots, and an existential meditation on life, death and the possibility of being rescued from the insignificance of life by a greater power.

London Classic Theatre’s production is a fantastic interpretation of a play which has changed the way we think about theatre.

Lost Shelley Poem Found

A long lost Shelley poem has resurfaced this year, and has now been acquired by the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The actress Vanessa Redgrave read  a very moving excerpt from it on R4’sToday progamme, and the librarian was interviewed…
The story is that Shelley got kicked out of Oxford because he published a tract advocating atheism and this poem, called ‘The Existing State of Things’, an anti-war poem. All copies were destroyed, but Shelley managed to keep one which he sent to a relative in Italy, where it remained stashed away ever since.
Below the link:
Check it out. It chimes with the situation as it still is….
Martin J

Norther Broadsides’ The Winter’s Tale

Staff and students were at the New Vic to see Northern Broadsides interpretation of The Winter’s Tale. It was, as ever, a seductive experience of precision acting and innovative staging. It would be unfair to single out one performance from a faultless cast, but I’m going to anyway. Conrad Nelson as the king, Leontes, was magnificent in his brooding, introspective delusion. I’m sure he’s a lovely guy in real life, but he plays a baddie very well (his Iago, played opposite Lennie Henry’s Othello, was a study in malevolence). The rest of the cast were just magnificent.
Broadsides are well known for mixing drama and music in inventive ways and the turn from tragedy to romance, the ‘problem’ of this problem play, signaled the setting of Shakespeare’s verse to many musical genres, including Bob Dylan, and a folk/hippy design. There can’t been many interpretations of Shakespeare which include Irish dancing, but there should be.
We all departed stage left, pursued by a bear. Next stop Godot!
Broadsides’ trailer for the production can be found here

Trip to Grasmere English and Creative Writing 31 October/1 November 2015, Melanie, Lisa, Martin



Repeating last year’s rapturous experience of our Level 4 English and Creative Writing residential trip to Grasmere, Lake District, everybody again had a blistering good time. On this occasion, we filled up some of the vacant spaces with level 5 and 6 people, and there was even a stray post-grad MA student… The mix of levels turned out to be a benevolent thing: we intellectually and otherwise cross-fertilised covering the range. Once again, the atmosphere was distinctly Halloweeny, what with the trip dates actually coinciding with the very event itself, and the local Youth Hostel being a rather spooky place at the best of times, hidden away in a nooky dell between thick, mostly dripping wet  foliage in a secluded spot en route to Easedale Tarn. One room, too frightening for anyone even to contemplate to stay in overnight, had a big wet patch on one of the walls and a putrid smell of wastage, hinting at oozing ectoplasm, the remains of the not yet fully, still somewhat active, dead.


We did Dove Cottage Saturday afternoon, getting us into the frame of mind of the Romantic situation. Obligingly, it was raining it down by the bucketfuls… Last year, on the first night, Paul Houghton, for some inexplicable reason, had turned all green in the pub, and we had, admittedly with not much success, tried after hours, in the cavernous basement, to conjure the spirit of my dead grandmother in a rather fruitless Seance. This time, some (!) beers in the pub later, with heightened senses and a high degree of exuberance, we did an extended reading in the lounge: a hellraisingly inspirational affair – we sampled some highlights of the Romantic repertory, and, best of all, excellent Creative Writing student work. We were all impressed by the high quality and intensity of the material. Lisa stood her ground, still capable of steering us through proceedings with a steady hand to the last.


Next morning, some of us set off on a  6 1/2 mile walk around Lakes Grasmere and Rydal, which, rather than a gentle ramble, as promissed in the brochure, turned out to be a real hiking tour-deforce, well, at least to us Stokie couch potatoes, in excess of 4 hours: intensely enjoyable in many ways, but this is also where some suffering occured (as in ‘blistering good time’ of the first sentence of this). Let us spread the sponge of amnesia over this stinging aspect of an otherwise wholly enyoyable outing…

Great trip.

Dr Martin Jesinghausen


Photography: Dr Melanie Ebdon