Godot Is A Woman

Josie Underwood, Cordelia Stevenson and Jack Wakely
Silent Faces
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Writers / performers Cordelia Stevenson, Josie Underwood and Jack Wakely Credit: Ali Wright

Entertaining, informative and provocative, Silent Faces challenges the Beckett Estate’s continued no-women stance in a clever and mostly-glorious 75-ish straight-through minutes.

Emotions sweep from the dour bowler-hatted trio—writers and performers Josie Underwood, Cordelia Stevenson and non-binary Jack Wakely—glumly waiting and waiting by the phone to reach the top of the call list through psychedelic lurex-clad joie de vivre in a confetti-strewn disco to embracing being stripped down to bare essentials.

The premise is the dichotomy of pioneering playwright Samuel Beckett’s insistence in life and death to permit only men to perform Waiting For Godot—the 1953 play that is said, ironically, to have changed the rules of theatre and challenged the very concept of traditional drama. Yet adamant to the point of serial litigation, performance rights are only granted to male actors with perhaps no more valid a reason than it is suspected that Vladimir had problems with his prostate.

Theatre of the absurd indeed.

So as the three tramps wait their turn to plead with the Estate, number 9124 in the queue, they pass the time with carrots, hugs, hat-swapping and carefully-timed dance routines to the tinny, hold musak. Teetering on the edge of tediousness, the trio just about keeps the attention in a parody of Godot itself. There are plenty of nods to the play and in-jokes for those in the know but not enough to spoil it for those who aren’t familiar with the ground-breaking, divisive, dreary original in which nothing happens, nobody comes and nobody goes (save, presumably, for Vladimir off-stage with his alleged urinary difficulties).

Ramping up the pace, the comedic triad points out that Beckett died the same year as Madonna released "Like A Prayer"—luckily the fav pop pick of the mock trial copyright expert—a song which courted controversy and catapulted feminism, kickstarting a litany of progress from the kitchen to space, from misogyny to #MeToo.

Previous court cases brought by Beckett and then his estate are listed and a mock trial challenging his discriminatory insistence ensues with increasingly chaotic role-swapping, bumbling judge, pompous crony defendant Counsel and a comedic cast of outrageous witnesses including that closet pop-picker copyright lawyer and a pseudo prostate specialist doctor duo.

As writer / performer Stevenson sums up: ”audiences can expect our usual clowning tomfoolery, plenty of theatre geekery and a bowler-hat-full of female pop icons. This is a show that vitally platforms trans and female voices, whilst both celebrating and challenging the theatrical canon.”

Silent Faces describes itself as a female- and non-binary-led integrated company of disabled and non-disabled artists whose work employs high-concept, metaphorical and playful theatre, and places clown and physical theatre in a contemporary political context.

In simple terms: a fun, thought-provoking evening.

Touring until late September.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell

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