On repeat – the power of Waiting for Godot

A trip to the Minack and a pair of famous bowler hats reveals the power of repetition in writing...

By: Clare Howdle,   2 minutes

This week I was lucky enough to see Miracle’s production of Waiting For Godot at the Minack. Perched on the cliffs at Porthcurno as the weather swept in across the bay; what a perfect spot to witness Gogo and Didi musing on life, death and humanity.

The show – arguably one of Miracle’s best – was captivating. The characters – ably portrayed by Steve Jacobs, Angus Brown, Ben Dyson and Ciaran Clarke – sincere, warm and funny. Taking a challenging play and creating something so compelling and accessible requires true skill, something this production had in abundance. And if you don’t believe me you could ask any one of the hundred children in the audience. It’s not often you see a gaggle of Haribo-munching eight-year-olds silenced and enthralled by Beckett.

Driving home I started to think (despite everything in the play persuading me otherwise). I started to think about just what made a play which deliberately avoids any meaningful structure or pattern, a play with no direction or sense of progress, a play where characters randomly converse, dance, take off boots, try on hats, eat carrots and witter gibberish so dramatically engaging? Obviously the skills of the company should be credited, but this was about more than just delivery. The dialogue, the vocabulary, the phrasing drew me in. There was something in the writing that compelled me.


From the moment Estragon (Gogo) grouched the opening line “nothing to be done”, a handful of carefully crafted sentences repeatedly echoed around the granite-hewn stage. They punctuated the action, brought us back to the play’s purpose and with each return, deepened in meaning.

Mirrored in the repeating scenarios, the repeating actions and the repeating characters of the play, these repeating lines reinforced the existential themes of uncertainty and purpose – encouraging us to consider our own futile attempts to construct meaning in a meaningless existence. But for me, the repeating lines had the most gravitas and impact because of their flexibility. In some cases identical clusters of words were used in different contexts, in different scenes, even by different characters – but they still delivered the same powerful message; more powerful because of this variety.

The final time Vladmir (Didi) wearily muttered that they couldn’t go because they were “waiting for Godot,” my hairs stood up. The same words. The same words that had been offered up a dozen times during the course of the play. But this final time they said so much more.

It was probably not the message Beckett wanted us to take away. Or that Miracle expected someone to leave with, when they decided to bring the play to life. But for me it was invaluable. Reminded of the dramatic power of repetition in such a visceral way. Listening intently to every syllable, each time hearing something new. Welling up at four simple words. As a writer, that’s always going to hit home.

Merci Miracle, merci.

Miracle Theatre’s Waiting for Godot is touring the country throughout July. Find out more…

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