By Harry Mottram: On Thursday, 22nd June, three actors will take to the stage at the Ustinov Studio in Bath. Nothing unusual about that but they tackle a play by Samuel Beckett by not performing it but by creating a play about the fact they are not allowed to perform it. Beckett (and his estate) dictated that women were forbidden to perform Waiting for Godot – and if they do then legal action will be taken – which has happened. Godot is a Woman is a funny and insightful take on the whole subject surrounding who can perform the play – and in particular the archaic idea that gender is specific to certain roles. Dr Who has been played by a man and a woman, while on the stage their have been gender flips for Julius Caesar and in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. Playing Up Theatre from Bath staged Waiting for Godot earlier this month at the Mission Theatre – if you’ve seen the play then this take will get you thinking – and laughing.
Bath Voice caught up with actors Josie Underwood (she/her), Jack Wakely (they/them) and the performer/writer Cordelia Stevenson (she/her) and asked them some questions about theatre and Bath of course.
What was your first theatre experience?
JW: Panto at the Plymouth Theatre Royal, though I also have a childhood memory of being taken to see Chess and being bored out of my mind. Who takes a kid to see Chess?!
JU: My dad was a brilliant am-dram actor, so the first theatre experience was also Panto. I remember playing a mini-version of my dad in Panto, after he got pushed into a washing machine and shrunk.
What do you like about Bath?
JW: I love the architecture in Bath, it’s an absolutely beautiful city to wander.
JU: My partner is from Bath so I have had the delight of spending a lot of time here. It is definitely one of the UK’s prettiest cities.
What is your favourite play?
JU: This changes for me all the time. Recently, I have loved Hungry by Chris Bush and Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder by Jon Brittain, and historically Gecko’s Institute and DV8’s Can We Talk About This have stuck in my mind. Anything that makes me laugh and/or think.
JW: I still think about Wise Children by Emma Rice a lot – that was one of those shows you see and go, “oh! This was made for me!” I felt similarly about Tatterdamelion by Flabbergast Theatre, which I walked out of and immediately exploded into tears because I was so overwhelmed by how much I loved it.
What are your thoughts on Waiting for Godot as a play?
JW: Honestly, I think it’s a very smart, well-written piece of theatre and there’s no denying the impact it has had on the theatrical canon.
JU: It feels like a rite of passage for any theatre student. Personally, I prefer Beckett’s really pedantic short plays, like Act Without Words, because it is just all pure clown, but the rhythm and playfulness of Godot is brilliant.
Why should Beckett be challenged over all male productions of Godot?
JW: As we say in the show, this is a play about human existence and where the characters’ genders really aren’t integral to the story. Saying only men can perform a play like this just continues this insidious idea of man – specifically cis white man – as the default.
JU: Because the gender of the characters is irrelevant. This show is about the existential question of life, why are we here? There really is no valid argument that anything about this question is gendered.
Date and details of all the gigs including near to Bath including Taunton and Bristol https://www.silentfaces.uk/godot-is-a-woman
For Bath on 22nd June see https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/godot-is-a-woman/
For my review of the show see: https://tinyurl.com/44bbxmum