As this is a series based on an absurdist Samuel Beckett play from the 1950s, don’t expect the humour to have you convulsing – rather expect the show to be intriguing, odd, darkly funny and increasingly tragic the more attention you pay it. In fact, this series practically demands re-watching and the short, episodic nature of Whilst Waiting for Godot allows for a deeper understanding of the play than you might get from one whole film. The dialogue, Beckett’s own, but a new translation is as surreal as you might expect, occasionally throwing up obscure biblical references. Fortunately helpful quotes from theologians, the bible and philosophers at the start of each episode make these easier to understand and provide some context for the lay viewer.
Famously called the play in which nothing happens, twice, it’s hard to give a summary of the plot beyond what I’ve said already. The series is filmed in black and white, outside next to the Hudson river, giving the whole thing an otherworldly, abandoned feel. The sound is very well produced, especially considering the show has been filmed on location in Battery Park, New York. Each episode opens with American folk and blues music, which is a nice touch of local colour. If there is a weakness to this show it would be the infrequent throwbacks to silent film, where action is sped up over jingling piano music. These segments are pretty jarring and upset the odd, unreal atmosphere which the rest of the show works so hard to build up. Perhaps those sections are supposed to be confrontational to the viewer, this is after all modernist theatre, but personally I just don’t think they work very well. Fortunately these sections are short, few and far between. A new touch which I particularly liked was the addition of some beautifully shot introductory shots at the start of each episode focusing on homelessness and street life in New York City, in the light of which the rest of the show gains some poignancy. This series isn’t afraid to let its shots linger and the wonderfully contrasty lighting gets the outing it deserves.
While Waiting for Godot is a wonderfully unique, surreal and darkly humerous web series. It’s bringing classic theatre to the 21st century audience with a great deal of creativity and confidence. This could so easily have been simply a filmed play, but the neat little additions the show’s creators have added on have made this a truly brilliant show. Only four episodes are on YouTube right now, but the last episode of season one is due out soon, and season 2 is currently being shot. The show’s creators are also turning to crowdfunding to finance seasons three and four, their campaign can be found here. In short, watch this series, you’ll get a smile out of it, it’ll make you think and it’ll give you a very approachable account of one of the most influential plays of the 20th century.
*Originally written in French, usually versions of Waiting for Godot in English have been based on Beckett’s own translation of the play.