One of the most striking differences between television and theatre lies in their attitudes to reinterpretation. It seems to have been a centuries-old tradition for plays to be reinterpreted and re-imagined many times over – a version of A Midsummer Nights’ Dream now will look and feel somewhat different to when it was first written. Films have only recently begun taking part in this tradition with their much-maligned spate of remakes and reboots. Television, and especially comedy television seems never to have got onto that bandwagon themselves. Certainly shows like Hannibal and the up-coming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are based on previous works, but their basis is in the more shiny world of film, and they are extensions of those worlds rather than reinterpretations. Why is it that people will go and see A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, essentially the same comedy it always has been, over and over again, but if you asked if there’s going to be a new version of I Love Lucy or a re-booted series of Taxi, people might start to look at you funny? Granted Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the greatest TV show of all time, if you disagree you’re wrong) was based off a film, as was Stargate SG1, but these are rare gems in TV land. In terms of online comedy, I have yet to see any examples of reinterpretation.
That is until now. A new web series based on Samuel Beckett’s emanating from New York University called While Waiting for Godot, is doing for the web what it’s been missing so far, the tradition of re-interpretation.
Based on an original translation, by series director Rudi Azank, of Beckett’s En Attendant Godot*, While Waiting for Godot is certainly based on a classic, but brings a good level of originality to the show. Set in modern-day New York City, the plot, for those of you who don’t know goes thusly. Two vagrants called Gogo, played by Ran Shelomi, and Didi, played by Azank (Estragon and Vladimir in the original) wait for a man called Godot to arrive, although whether he was supposed to arrive that day, or at all, is put into doubt. In the meantime, they philosophise, ponder and even discuss suicide whilst their absent companion stubbornly refuses to turn up.
Sadly I am something of a philistine and have never actually seen Waiting for Godot – but I think that probably puts me in the target audience for the show. Bringing something with the importance of Godot to a computer-based constituency, one who never, or almost never, attends the theatre can only be a good thing in my book. Only four episodes in to the two act play and I am already intrigued to see the rest of what is a very odd play in episodic form. I know, because I did my research, that there are other characters in the play due to turn up in later episodes, but as it stands, the acting from Shelomi and Azank is strong enough to carry most shows. They play their characters with assuredness and real charisma, and have a wonderful physicality about their performances which make their characters jump out of the screen.