Monthly Archives: November 2013

New STC Waiting For Godot Reviews, Pics; Night With The Actors Pics Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh

Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Beckett’s classic Waiting For Godot continues to draw sellout crowds and near-unanimously positive reviews rivaling those of the current New York production (which stars Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.) More of Lisa Tomasetti’s production images seem to appear with each new review, so I’ll share the latest batch of both. (As always, click on links to read full reviews at sites of origin.) I also have two new print reviews to share under the cut.

Sun Herald Review: Elissa Blake; Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Sunday Telegraph Review: Jo Litson; Photo: Lisa Tomasetti.

Note: You can read a longer version of Jo Litson’s review online here.

New Review Excerpts:

David Kary, Sydney Arts Gude: “Comic?…Yes…but the humour is so dark…gallows humour…Black on Black. There is no let up. Desolation..

Sydney Theatre Company has put on a revival of ‘Godot’ as one of its showcase production of the year. Andrew Upton helms the production, taking over from Tamas Ascher who had to withdraw for health reasons. Three giants of the Australian theatre take the leading roles; Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh as the two tramps and Philip Quast as the sadistic Pozzo. The production is of the highest calibre. It’s just really tough going…”

Hugo Weavinbg as Vladimir, Richard Roxburgh as Estragon  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Sydney Outsider: “Anyone who has read the play or seen a sub-par production might be wary about going to the STC’s production. The exchanges between Didi and Gogo can become confusing, tedious, or a mixture of both. Here well-tuned performances let Beckett’s words shine with all the wit they deserve. The physicality the players bring to their roles makes the characters all the more compelling. I was so enthralled I soon forgot the over-powering stench of perfume coming from the big lady next to me….

At the outset of the play I expected the tale of two men waiting for hours might not resonate with an audience more used to constant titillation and instant gratification. If anything Didi and Gogo’s anxiety at their predicament and need for distraction was shockingly relevant for a modern audience desperate to feel connected constantly – a couple of them so desperate they refused to turn off their mobiles until they rang loudly in the final scenes….

Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh make a brilliant double act and to see them on stage together, masterfully traversing the line between comedy and tragedy as they tussle with the big questions of life, felt like a privilege…

I’m sure there will be critics who find fault in the play and Upton’s direction. Misery guts will say it pulls for laughs too much, while clowns will complain it’s too dark. To those critics I offer another quote from the play, this time from Estragon: ‘People are bloody ignorant apes.’ ”

Luke Mullins as Lucky, Philip Quast as Pozzo  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Augusta Supple, Australian Stage: “Weaving’s Vladimir is upright, articulate and grand in his broadness. Roxburgh’s Estragon is a small aching poet, finely sketched and crumpled. Mullin’s Lucky is filled with ghostly agony, red raw urgency and a vicious streak. And it is Quast as Pozzo who fills the stage with a mighty and impressive voice – the central sun around which Didi and Gogo orbit. It is in this Waiting for Godot we see the wide reaching universality of oppression, the surrender of control – the desire for control and to be controlled, the need for direction and for the obedience of others – for the complicity in the shape of our own destinies….

Director Andrew Upton has shaped a playful and fluid Waiting for Godot, assisted by Associate director Anna Lengyel. This play “written by an Irishman in France, in a production conceived by a Hungarian by directed by an Australian” has a distinctly universal feel – as absurdist theatre is designed to have. We are the everyman in the everywhere, feeling the weight of the nothingness…

There is pleasure in this waiting. Pleasure found in wildly spoken recitation, in the deep, round vowels of Philip Quast’s undeniable velvet voice. Pleasure in the familiar and complementary pairing of our dearly beloved Roxburgh and Weaving. Pleasure in all the moments to be found and paced with such loving care, by a caring directorial eye. Too easily Waiting for Godot can be a steely criticism on aging, on power, on pettiness – and in Upton’s production we feel as much as we think. A rare balance is struck. ”

Nicholas Harding’s charcoal sketch of Roxburgth and Weaving, from STC’s programme (via STC Facebook)

Rima Sabine Aouf, Concrete Playground: “Fortunately,[despite the absence of original director Tamas Ascher], they’ve pulled off a ripper of a Godot and absolutely one of the year’s most memorable shows. The play is famous as the defining work of absurdism on stage, capturing the utter pointlessness of human existence in its form — in other words, not the most enjoyable comedy around. And yet, in this team’s hands, it’s a consuming, almost fun three hours…

Playwright Samuel Beckett was notoriously controlling over how Waiting for Godot was performed, and his estate continues that vigilance, meaning that you pretty much know what you’re going to get with a production of Godot. Without huge leeway for interpretation, a lot of the interest comes from the pairing of actors, and Weaving and Roxburgh are sublime…

Not only are they heavyweights of Australian drama, they’re hilarious together, with an easy chemistry and camaraderie that led Ascher to envisage them in the roles while they were all working on Uncle Vanya in 2011. Roxburgh’s Estragon is the grumpy, sincere clown of the piece, while Weaving’s more with-it Vladimir still has wide-eyed optimism and relish. Their performances are not totally but nearly naturalistic, such that their tete a tetes seem quite coherent; it might not be Beckett’s ideal, but it is appropriately earthy for a contemporary Australian audience.”

Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Irina Dunn, Daily Telegraph Online: “The quartet of actors in the STC production bring their own Australian take to Beckett’s ground-breaking play about the futility of life…

Weaving’s insistently mischievous Vladimir makes a wonderful foil to Roxburgh’s testy recalcitrant Estragon. Although Roxburgh holds his own in the verbal duelling between the two, Weaving’s Vladimir is the more powerfully and authentically portrayed and grounds their interactions…

Although Beckett’s stage directions require ‘A country road. A tree. Evening.’, a desolate industrial backdrop dominates the rear of the stage. The direction took into account the cavernous space of this setting, so suggestive of wide open Australian landscapes, and choreographed the two old tramps to fill the void with their antics…

Andrew Upton and his creative team at the STC have produced a very fine, definitively Australian interpretation of this classic – one which will not only satisfy its audiences but also provide a fitting ending to the 2013 season…

PS A suggestion for the STC. Isn’t it about time the wonderful productions of the STC were made available on DVD for the world to see and appreciate.”

Hear, hear! Hear that, STC? 😉

New fan photos from the Night With The Actors Q & A and stage door meetings:

Fan photo from Lauren Dwyer via Instagram: “Meeting the one and only Hugo Weaving after watching the brilliant Waiting For Godot”

Fan Photo from Danie Therese via Twitter/Instagram: “‘Waiting For Godot’ Actors Night. #HugoWeaving #RichardRoxburgh #LukeMullins #PhilipQuast #GoodNight”

I’ve saved the best for last… our Sydney Correspondent Yvette attended the Night With The Actors performance of Godot, which featured a Q & A with the actors, and had a prime vantage point for excellent photos. I’ll share them with you below. She also met Hugo after the show and helped obtain an autograph for another fan… as always, the soul of generosity. My thanks again!

Curtain call: Photo by Yvette

The Night with the Actors Q & A session: Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast, Luke Mullins   All Photos: Yvette

Mullins, Richard Roxburgh, the event moderator

Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast

Richard Roxburgh, apparently still entertaining hopes of an “all nude production” of Godot 😉

Roxburgh signs autographs post-show

Hugo Weaving signing and chatting with fans
Again, thanks to Yvette, and all others who’ve shared photos and impressions.

In Other Hugo News:

Healing just had its first “cast and crew screening” at Healesville Sanctuary, where some scenes were filmed, recently. The event was reported by Zoos Victoria;  Hugo Weaving was unable to attend due to a meeting that keeps being mysteriously rescheduled. 😉 The film will have another advance screening for Zoos Victoria members early next year, in advance of its Australian release the first week of April.

Mystery Road is already scheduled for a TV screening early next year, according to TV Tonight. It will air on ABC1 (Australia) on 26 January. The film is still in theatres in some parts of Australia: new reviews (all largely positive) were recently posted at ABC North Queensland, SparlyPrettyBriiiight and Early Bird Film Society. No word yet on the DVD/Blu-Ray release schedule, or the specifics of its US release, slated for early next year. I’ll share those details as soon as I know them.

The Latest STC Waiting For Godot Reviews, New Production Photos of Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh

Several new reviews for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting For Godot have been posted since my last update, including several with great new photos… I’ll share excerpts here, but many warrant full reading at the sites of origin: just click on the links. All photos are by Lisa Tomasetti/STC.

Vicky Frost, The Guardian: ” In Sydney Theatre Company’s production, which stars Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving as tramps Estragon and Vladimir, it is the humour that provides many of the show’s most memorable moments….  Roxburgh and Weaving play the men as an old couple, married in their youth and now facing old age: dependent on each other for companionship, perhaps even love, but never able to shake the niggle they could have done better elsewhere. They flirt, they argue, they fall back on the familiar refrains which punctuate their life together. The pair are physically close – Didi often with his hand on friend, guiding him – and despite the bellowing and proclamations to the contrary, seemingly unshakeably linked….

This production was due to be directed by Tamas Ascher, who was prevented from traveling by illness. Instead, STC’s artistic director Andrew Upton stepped in, assisted by Anna Lengyel, and this Godot is notable for the physical direction – most particularly in the case of Pozzo (Philip Quast) and Lucky (Luke Mullins). The pair arrive on stage in striking style, as if drawn by a cartoonist, their bodies curving and straining in opposite directions; Lucky a fragile, twitching bird of a man, Quast solid and booming….

n fact, comedy throughout the play is well done. Even without an extremely supportive first-night audience, there is no resisting the humour in this production. But it could perhaps have touched more on those difficult questions about the futility of human existence, the desire to create meaning in our lives, friendship and suffering, that should make this play a more difficult watch.”

CJ: While the overemphasis on humor has marred some Godots I’ve seen, no other critic so far has leveled this charge against STC’s production… in fact, some have emphasized its stark, bleaker aspects. The play rather notably HAS no answers about “difficult questions about the futility of human existence” and one could argue that its answers to the extent they exist are presented in the way the play ends (which I won’t spoil here, though it’s one of the more famous endings of 20th century literature.) I can’t imagine Andrew Upton altering Beckett’s final stage direction, or any of these actors being too hammy. Rehearsal photos alone belie Frost’s notion that the actors were “too comfortable” embodying these characters (of course, one says this understanding Weaving and Roxburgh have decades of stage experience, so they’re never going to seem uncomfortable performing).  Didi and Gogo have been companions for 50 years, so they HAVE to have a kind of short-hand of communication and gesture.  Here are some contrasting views:

Lloyd Bradford Syke, The Daily Review/ : “When the production’s two leads are Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh, one suspects [director Andrew] Upton mightn’t have had to do too much beyond telling them where to stand….

First of all, it’s funny, but Beckett’s genius here transcends the work’s humour.  While keeping a momentum of gentle amusement throughout, there is an ever-present undercurrent of deeply affecting sadness and there’s not a better example than in the first minutes. Gogo wants change, or he wants out. He can no longer bear the boots he’s wearing, yet he must. They’re his. This is his lot….

Upton and his cast have locked-on to the essence of the play. Roxburgh’s comic timing and sensibility is spot on and as the tired, glass-half-empty member of the duo, he calibrates his performance incisively. Both he and Weaving are so comfortable in front of a large audience they’re able to focus absolutely on the finer points of their respective performances, down to the meter of their speech and their pauses. Weaving is masterful: we see the cogs of Didi’s mind turning, mustering the hint of inspiration both he and Gogo need to go on just one more day. It’s the only way in which their lives can be measured. And so they must wait. And it’s as well they wait for a fictional saviour like Godot….

Mullins is excellent as the mostly wordless minion, but it’s Quast that truly fills every inch of his larger-than-life character, beaming and booming Pozzo’s overbearing personality such that it expands, balloon-like, and almost explodes, to fill the hearts and minds of an appreciative audience. It may well be the crowning performance of Quast’s career and the fact that he’s positively luminous, even in this esteemed company, is a guide to just how good he is….Upton, STC and this cast have really got Godot. It has been well worth the wait.”

Luke Mullins as Lucky (center) with Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh

Chris Hook, The Daily Telegraph: “Meaning, in Godot, is hotly contested, the subject of myriad debates and discourses (a Christian reading is the most obvious but Beckett denied this)….

Vladimir and Estragon’s fruitless wait for a man called Godot is everything and nothing, the pointlessness of our existence at its heart. But this is, after all, a comedy and Weaving and Roxburgh acquit themselves expertly, as they banter and clown about while milling around a dead tree, passing time as they wait….

Director Andrew Upton’s take makes for a remarkable production of a 20th-century masterpiece. It’s perfectly paced and Weaving and Roxburgh are at their finest, bring to bear all of their considerable abilities on the roles….An unrecognisable [Philip] Quast and [Luke] Mullins almost run away with the whole thing, Quast’s towering stature and magnificent presence the sheer embodiment of Pozzo.”

Anthony Ulhmann, The Conversation: “The major participants to the play all make their own particular contributions to a conception that seems to follow from one thing: Upton indicates in his notes to the program his interest in theatre history and positions Beckett as “post-naturalist”…Any production of any play is an interpretation and what makes this valid or otherwise is not any academic or theoretical argument but whether or not the production itself stands up. In order to do this the interpretation has to be coherent and plausible within the work…. Upton’s production, then, is ambitious. It is also largely successful….

The first act on the opening night was a triumph: Hugo Weaving’s Vladimir in particular shines as a creature of the air, someone who is – and this is rarely noticed in other productions – capable of rising above almost anything… In response to him, Roxburgh’s Estragon creates a creature of the ground, the downbeat to Weaving’s up… Yet in doing this, rather than changing Godot to turn it into a naturalist play, Upton is aware that what needs to happen is an exchange: naturalism is brought into dialogue with the anti-naturalist….

Overstatement or exaggeration leads to the humour and pathos: this is brilliantly brought out by Philip Quast (Pozzo) and Luke Mullins (Lucky). Upton chooses to make both Lucky and Estragon weep out loud, melodramatically, when this is often understated. Again, here, his decisions are bold, and I think they succeed…

Upton chooses to work with a kind of comic melodrama because this offers continuity with a naturalist tradition. It might break with received or authorised interpretations but an extremely interesting coherence emerges. Upton, in effect, has done something very hard. He has offered new light on a play we thought was getting old. Or perhaps it is just that he has made it real for his audience….

It is already clear that this Australian cast is equal to any that might be assembled anywhere. Once the timing is brought right Upton’s production will stand tall among recent interpretations of the play.”

[CJ: This is the lengthiest and most academic review so far of STC’s production, with a lot of interesting background information on the history of the play. Well worth a look.]

Leigh Livingstone: “Audiences expect high-calibre productions from this theatrical institution and even when casting stars like Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh – two powerhouses of the Australian entertainment industry – raises the anticipation through the roof, Waiting for Godot delivers the goods….

Subtle character nuances, expressions and movements leave no traces of Weaving ‘the actor’ and thus cements his reputation as a leader within the industry…    Roxburgh is grumpy yet charming as Estragon and the two actors complement each other perfectly in a co-dependant relationship that never misses a beat even during lengthy pauses…

Waiting for Godot has a reputation as an elusive masterpiece. It is full of complex philosophies intended for interpretation by the audience at will, and STC’s production is simply superb.”

I’ll have what they’re having 😉

Ian Dickson, Australian Book Review: “At the end of the first act, it seemed that we were in for an evening of Beckett lite. In his review of the original London production, Kenneth Tynan wrote: ‘Waiting for Godot frankly jettisons everything by which we recognize theatre … A play, it asserts and proves, is basically a means of spending two hours in the dark without being bored.’ It seemed that the director and cast had taken this to heart. Aided and abetted by an audience primed for comedy and seemingly willing to laugh at everything, the admittedly very funny act sped by giving short shrift to the shafts of pain and despair that puncture the humour. By the second and darker act, the cast had obviously got the measure of the audience and had complete control of the house. The bleaker moments came through full force, and the ending was, as it should be, deeply moving…

With his fob watch and picnic hamper, there is something Edwardian about Pozzo, Beckett’s answer to Kenneth Grahame’s Mr Toad perhaps, if one could imagine Mr Toad riven by existential despair. Actors always play Pozzo at full bore, and Philip Quast’s operatic performance is no exception to the rule… As his battered and abused servant Lucky, Luke Mullins is nothing short of magnificent…

In the hands of Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh, Vladimir and Estragon come over as a cross between Stiffy and Mo and Edward Albee’s George and Martha. Resenting their interdependence but terrified of loneliness, they bicker and make up and attempt to find ways to pass the long daylight hours… Weaving’s Vladimir is the more optimistic of the two. He still has some hope that things will get better and that Godot will arrive, but his glazed smile and anxious eyes betray the immense effort needed to remain positive, and his final outburst when the boy tells him that once again Godot will not come is shattering… Roxburgh is an unusually active Estragon. Despite his sore feet, he buzzes around the stage like a fly trapped in a bottle. Less bright than Vladimir but more realistic, he sees his situation as hopeless. And Roxburgh brilliantly shifts gears from comedy to despair and back again.

This is already a splendid production. I have a feeling that after it has run in a bit more it will be a magnificent one.”

Deborah Jones: “SYDNEY Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot offers, above all, the grace of tenderness and the gift of generosity. There are few qualities more touching in any circumstances; in Godot they temper and illuminate one of the harshest and most unforgiving dramas of the 20th century. Life is envisioned as a cruel paradox. We can have hopes for the future but can possess no knowledge of it. This is for the best, of course. If we had the power of foresight all hope may well be extinguished and with it the desire to go on. No matter how unendurable the present is, it will be endured. Memory – the only way in which we can know ourselves – may possibly sustain us, but is deeply unreliable….

This production, directed by Andrew Upton with Anna Lengyel as co-director, takes as read the great abyss that lies ahead and places its faith in the many small gestures of connection – touches, glances, interactions, diversions – that bind one person to another in the here and now. Being in extremis is one thing. To face it alone would be the greatest horror…

Upton doesn’t go soft on the play… He and an unimprovable group of actors delve into the core of the matter and find a persistent spark of humanity in the midst of desolation….

Hugo Weaving’s Vladimir and Richard Roxburgh’s Estragon are in a constant, restless state of anxiety, that much is clear. Vladimir just manages to hide it a little better. He is the one with carrots and radishes about his person when Estragon complains of hunger. He is the one insistent on meeting the obligation to Godot as a matter of honour. His speech is carefully chosen for rhythm and ever so slightly heightened effect. ‘For the moment he is inert,’ Vladimir says of the prone Lucky. Weaving’s locution is resonant and precise but his tense jaw, mobile mouth and wandering tongue give the lie to his apparent command of the situation….

Estragon is the more obviously untethered and in need of protection, although there is much sweetness in his expression and his eagerness to please. Roxburgh has a rare gift for being simultaneously heartbreaking and funny (his Vanya in 2010 was superb) and you could pick scores of examples from Godot….

Despite Godot’s extreme artifice Weaving and Roxburgh have a lightness of touch that borders on naturalism. This makes for a fascinatingly multi-layered production in which the poetry of the play is honoured but can sound conversational and the overt theatricality is absorbed seamlessly into an easy flow of banter and time-filling. The routine in the second act in which Vladimir and Estragon swap hats, for instance, has nothing of the presentational music-hall performance style so often seen and becomes something much less contrived. The easy rapport between the two men (as actors and characters) trumps party tricks. There are funny sad bits and sad funny ones, just as in life.”

[CJ: Another exceedingly well-written review, worth reading in full. As added incentive, the post includes high-res versions of several of Lisa Tomasetti’s great production photos.]

Since the play’s run has just begun, there will likely be more to come. I’m thrilled the reaction so far has been this positive. A play with this pedigree and elusiveness [down to the persistent argument over whether it’s actually a comedy or tragedy] will obviously elicit different responses based on audience expectation and interpretation, particularly among those who’ve seen many versions. I’ve found my own response to the play has evolved over the years as well. I used to think it was utterly depressing (if bleakly poetic) but now I think it’s a comedy with bittersweet, sad moments. Neither comedy nor tragedy should be overemphasized. Stewart and McKellen got the mix just right, and it sounds as though Weaving and Roxburgh have as well. (The fact that so many have noted Vladimir’s final interaction with The Boy as a particularly poignant moment is a good indicator.)

UPDATE: Another interesting new review, which was posted alongside a full set of Lisa Tomasetti’s play photos, including some I hadn’t seen before:

Matthew Clayfield, Time Out Sydney:  “As statements on the human condition go, Waiting for Godot is pretty bleak stuff. Like most bleak statements on the human condition, however, it’s also a bit of a laugh riot. Stepping in for Hungarian director Tamás Ascher, who conceived of this production but was unable to travel to Australia to direct it, Andrew Upton handles the material with a light touch, never overstressing its heavier points….

As Vladimir and Estragon, Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh could almost be out-of-work vaudevillians, their actions informed by a certain slapstick spirit even if they’re not necessarily running about bumping into another. Beckett described the play as a tragicomedy and one could perhaps argue that Upton has dulled a good deal of the “tragi” by playing up the “comedy”. But the angst and despair are still there, if you’re looking for them, smuggled through in small, termitic details…

Disappearing behind a scruffy beard and several layers of dirt, Weaving’s Vladimir is a particularly well-drawn example of this, a would-be fop and wannabe optimist whose manifold tics and tremors—he’s constantly grinding his teeth and, more off-puttingly, involuntarily sticking his tongue out, licking his lips and moistening everything—are constantly betraying his internal crises…

That there is a good deal of pleasure to be taken from Weaving and Roxburgh’s interactions together almost goes without saying. These are two of our greatest actors and they’re at the top of their game. What is perhaps more surprising is the fact that they are very nearly upstaged by Philip Quast’s Pozzo and Luke Mullins’s Lucky. Looking like an emaciated albino doberman, and every bit as likely to bite, Mullins, in particular, is doing some career-best work here.”

Waiting For Godot Opens To Warm Reviews In Sydney; New Hugo Weaving/Richard Roxburgh Production Pics

Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh during Godot rehearsals   Photo: Lisa Tomasetti/STC website

Sydney Theatre Company’s new production of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, starring Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins, has officially opened after a week of previews. The initial reviews, both from critics and theatregoers, have been almost unanimously rapturous, which must please everyone involved after the trials of the rehearsal period (including now now-famous no-show of original director Tamas Ascher.) I’ll include print versions of the two high-profile newspaper reviews (from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian) but you should also check out the digital links too. I’ll include Lisa Tomasetti’s photos from both of those reviews as well, and quotes from some theatre blog reviews.

These two papers almost never agree with one another particularly regarding heralded productions of famous plays with big names attached. So their near-unanimity is impressive. I disagree with the SMH critic’s interpretation of some aspects of the Ian McKellen version of the play, though the NYC incarnation might have substantial changes from the 2010 Sydney Opera House staging. (For one thing, Patrick Stewart wasn’t available for the earlier version…) Also, Vladimir does have a lot of lascivious lines in the first act, but I’d hardly call him “deviant” unless Upton and Weaving have really altered the staging from most versions (something I doubt based on photos, other reviews and the actors’ own comments.)

Nor have I ever interpreted the characters as “old vaudevillians”; some stagings highlight the comic aspects of the characters’ predicaments, but the best versions combine comedy and pathos– sometimes from one moment to the next. It would be lovely indeed to one day have the opportunity to compare this production to the current Broadway version. The reviews make them sound somewhat similar, though Weaving and Roxburgh are substantially younger than McKellen and Stewart, thus must have had to have formed a creative take on Didi and Gogo’s physical an mental maladies, which are symptoms of advanced age in the reading and in traditional productions.

Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving   Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Other Reviews (click on the links for full versions at sites of origin):

Whitney Fitzsimmons, Stage Whispers: “Pairing Hugo Weaving (Vladamir) and Richard Roxburgh (Estragon) in the lead roles appears to be an obvious choice, but credit must be given to Tamas Ascher who recognised during rehearsals for Uncle Vanya the glorious potential of casting these two. But it must also be said that Ascher’s unavailability to direct the show due to injury could be thought of as a blessing in disguise. It is in taking on this unexpected task that Andrew Upton really shows what he’s made of as a director. There’s no doubt that with such a skillful cast his job could be perceived to be easier but the challenge here is to be able to elicit excellent performances while not allowing them to become self-indulgent. It’s a delicate balance and one that Upton achieves…

As for the bromance between Weaving and Roxburgh it is absolutely infectious. These two men are so in love with each other (in a platonic way) and they are having so much fun that it’s impossible to resist being swept away with them on a rollicking ride of impeccably timed comedy….

This production of Waiting For Godot is not only extraordinary theatre, but it’s a sublime rendering of an absurdist classic, even Samuel Beckett – who was a notoriously tough nut – would be sitting up in his grave applauding.”

CJ: Love the review, but I’d implore all reviewers of this production and the Two Plays In Rep (McKellen/Stewart) version to PLEASE stop using the word “bromance” as if male friendship between these characters and actors must now be treated with a a glib, trendoid jokeyness.

L to R: Weaving, Philip Quast, Roxburgh, Luke Mullins  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Alison Veness-McGourty, 10 Magazine: “Funny funny charming -love this production of Waiting for Godot directed by Andrew Upton that opened last night at the Sydney Theatre Company. Flowers to Hugo Weaving for playing his Didi – or Vladimir so brilliantly that we laughed and remembered Basil Fawlty and Victor Meldrew all at once. He almost upstaged everyone else including Richard Roxburgh in the role of Gogo (Estragon). Love love Philip Quast as Pozzo so wrong he’s so right – his walk, his demeanour. And then of course the brown-ness of the Alice Babidge costumes and the greyness of the Zsolt Khell set design. The Sydney Theatre Company is on fire with Andrew Upton – his team too is just brilliant. Standing ovation all round. We waited with them, what are they waiting for… go along and find out.”

L to R: Weaving, Mullins, Quast, Roxburgh  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Diana Simmonds, Stage Noise: “While Ascher’s associate Anna Lengyel has been in Sydney for the duration, it’s hard to believe that this is not Upton’s production in the truest sense as the wit, humour, fluid action and ensemble playing reek of the director’s presence. Waiting For Godot was worth the wait and the various hiccups along the way: it’s a superb realisation of  Samuel Beckett’s play of the 20th century…

[T]the opening moments are as light as can be  leaving space and depth for the weight of sadness that must follow. Richard Roxburgh’s Gogo wrestles with his boot while Hugo Weaving’s Didi capers expectantly, hoping to spot Godot’s approach. It’s subtle and lovely clowning without a hint of self consciousness or effort. And the two continue in this way, acutely aware of the least obvious way of achieving their ends, spectacularly fluent with the text and each other…

All in all, in this most famous of plays where everything and nothing is discussed, forgotten and remembered and Godot never turns up, it’s a remarkable privilege to see it as if newly written and performed for the first time. It’s still as meaningful and meaningless as it was in its first production 60 years ago and as open to interpretation. In the age of ageing, with dementia popping up around every corner to frighten half the audience to death, it’s tempting to read into it that particular existential horror. Whatever one chooses to see, however, the fact is there is laughter and humanity at every turn – the darkness being lit by simple acts of hope and kindness. And there are three leaves on the hitherto dead tree.”

Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Suzy Wrong, Suzy Goes See: “Andrew Upton was brought in last minute to direct Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting For Godot. The original director had taken ill, so the company’s artistic director steps up to the challenge, and, like a blessing in disguise, presents to us a skilfully crafted rendition of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece. The script’s absurdist nature, along with its surreal elements are retained, but the work lays emphasis on psychological validity, which allows for a more accessible reading and indeed, a very entertaining night at the theatre. Upton’s interpretation of Beckett’s words encourages his audience to reflect upon existentialist themes, such as death, memory, isolation, time, and of course, life itself. One would argue that Beckett’s script might be legendary, but when in the wrong hands, those themes easily become muddled and obtuse, In this case however, his ideas are intriguing and thought-provoking…

The star studded cast does a great job of luring huge numbers of punters into the theatre, and they do more than their fair share of pleasing the crowds. Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh are truly brilliant. Their genius fills the auditorium, and we are privileged to witness their craft in motion. Of course, having such a rich text to play with does provide them with a solid platform on which to showcase the depth of their abilities, but they are both able to bring out so much life and meaning from it, and the level of poignancy they create in a single show is a remarkable achievement. Roxburgh is a surprisingly funny performer. His comic timing is impressive, and the laughter he creates prevents the show from developing overly dark. Weaving has the uncanny ability to make every utterance sound profound, and his use of silence and stillness to drive a point through is simply masterful.”

I’ll update with further reviews or photos as they become available, and would love to hear from anyone lucky enough to see this for themselves.

Here’s a great fan photo of the opening night curtain call by Benjamin Mathews vis Twitter/Instagram:

And a shot of Hugo in rehearsals, in what looks like fraught concentration:

Photo: Lisa Tomasetti/STC Facebook

While there were several galleries of Opening Night photos of notable theatre guests (focusing on Cate Blanchett, of course), there have been oddly none of Weaving and Roxburgh after the show. But you can view photos of Blanchett, Upton, Jack Thompson, Josh McConville (who played Hugo’s son in The Turning) and others at Just Jared and FashionMagazine247.

The Latest Waiting For Godot Previews, Hugo Weaving & Richard Roxburgh Interviews and Photos

Two major newspaper pieces highlighting Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting For Godot, starring Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh, have appeared since the last entry. As usual, online versions and print versions differ slightly, so I’ll share both.

Weaving and Roxburgh, Waiting For Godot rehearsals.  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti, The Australian

Richard Roxburgh compiled an insightful, frequently hilarious rehearsal diary for The Sydney Morning Herald. The print edition (under the cut, identical text) also featured an extra photo for their weekend magazine (Spectrum) cover story.  Our Sydney Correspondent Yvette (LyridsMC) was kind enough to send me some preliminary photos and has sent the full article, which I’ll scan when I receive it. The Australian, meanwhile, interviewed both Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving for their Weekend Australian cover story; the online version of the article, which features a new rehearsal photo (above) and some images of classic Godot productions, can be read here. The print version is below. (Note: WordPress readers should right-click images,  then click, “Open image in a new tab” to see full-sized versions.)

Here’s a digital version of the article’s photos:

Photo: Ingvar Kenne

Photo: Marco del Grande

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald also shared another photo of Hugo from James Brickwood’s Godot promo sitting:

In Other Hugo News:

The actress/model Kalia Prescott shared some classic pics taken while The Matrix was filming circa 1998; I’ll include her caption:

“Dinner at PRIME with Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving and the rest of The Matrix cast. I was making Keanu draw with me, even though he had wanted to write me a poem. Hehe. They were the best movie family.”


And David Wenham shared an anecdote with Australian Director’s Guild Conference about the pitfalls of moving from acting to directing Hugo Weaving and Josh McConville in The Turning (as quoted in TV Tonight):

“I could see when they were on slightly unstable footing. I could tell when they were absolutely flying and confident. I could read them like a book. Which was fantastic that I could read the signs.

“And it’s this: when we’re in rehearsal talk as much as you like, but when you’re actually shooting, at the end of a take if the director wants to go again, in terms of direction I love a very quick, succinct, sharp direction. So we go as quick as possible into the next take.

“It’s the thing that kills me as an actor. There’s too much time to exist between one take and the next.

“I’m so hyper-aware of everything that’s going on, even if it’s a technical thing and the light needs to be moved. If the light’s moved and the First Asst. Director isn’t calling it to go into the next thing, or I can see people drifting off … it annoys me. I want to be kept in the zone.

“Otherwise it’s like going back to square one to start up again. Direction from the director shouldn’t be a long-winded conversation at this point. At previous rehearsals, talk till the cows come home. But once you’re actually engaging an actor on set, just a few simple words.

“I found myself once with Hugo doing what I hated. I started to explain…. and he said ‘Yes, fine got it!’ I suddenly realised I’d become a director.”

Waiting For Godot STC Rehearsal Photos; Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh Interviews; The Turning in NZ

Vogue Australia posted a batch of lovely photos covering a rehearsal dinner for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting For Godot, which opens later this month. Lead actors Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh shared insights into the often-trying rehearsal process. Costar Philip Quast and director Andrew Upton were also on hand. I’ll post the Hugo pics and quotes below, but you should check out the original piece (text by Mark Sariban, photos by Natalie Page) too.

L to R: Associate director Anna Lengyel, director Andrew Upton, and Godot actors Philip Quast, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving. Photo: Natalie Page/Vogue Australia

Photo: Natalie Page/Vogue Australia

From the article: ‘Hugo Weaving, who plays Vladimir, said they’d had a particularly hard time of it that day, before confessing that he found that week – the third week – of the rehearsal period the most challenging. Richard Roxburgh, who plays Estragon, the other main character, interjected: “Weeks one, two, four, five and six are pretty difficult, too!”… Richard Roxburgh revealed that he and his fellow actors began rehearsals continually second-guessing how the absent Tamás Ascher would eventually direct them in each scene, until it was confirmed that, like Godot, Ascher would not be coming.’

Areial view of the dining table Photo: Natalie Page/Vogue Australia

The STC production begins preview performances November 12 and runs through December 1 at the Sydney Theatre. Tickets and info available at STC’s website.  If you’re in the US and unable to make the Sydney version, and are within reasonable distance of New York, I do encourage you to try and see the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen production if you can. I know Hugo and Richard at their best might have the chops to equal these actors, but it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing them.  I was lucky enough to catch the November 3 performance and am still in awe. This version runs through early March in repertory with Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at Broadway’s Cort Theater. More details and tickets available here. Hugo himself saw an earlier version of this production at the Sydney Opera House back in 2010; it also ran in London earlier, where it was filmed for the documentary Theatremania. Both productions have some discounted rush seats available for some performances; again, check out the websites in question for specifics.
Ian McKellen and Hugo Weaving after a performance of McKellen’s Godot in 2010Hugo Weaving was also quoted in an interview/preview piece about Godot in Gay News Network. Hugo discussing the complication of original director Tamas Ascher being unable to come to Sydney:’As Weaving says, it’s a start Samuel Beckett would have been delighted with. “It was quite absurd,” he tells SX. “First Tamás was delayed; then he was delayed again; and then he wasn’t coming at all!”

After working with Ascher on STC’s 2010 production of Uncle Vanya – also alongside Roxburgh – Weaving admits to approaching their second outing together with liberal dose of dread. “We had a really fascinating time with him on Vanya,” he says. But it was very difficult – very, very, very difficult – for all sorts of reasons. He’s a singular man, he’s brilliant, there’s an enormous amount of respect for him for what he does – but he’s very hard on you.”
Nevertheless, the genesis of this production of Godot can in fact be traced back to the rehearsal period for Uncle Vanya. It seems in many ways it was meant to be.
“Tamás was laughing at Richard and I doing a scene of Vanya, and he stopped rehearsals and said ‘You two should play Vladimir and Estragon one day!’ And then that same day Andrew [Upton] said to me, ‘I have this great idea – we should get Tamás to direct you and Roxy in Waiting for Godot… What do you think?’ And I said, ‘Have you been talking to him?’ And apparently he hadn’t…”

…“Beckett taps into this constant question we all have of ‘Why am I doing anything?’” Weaving muses. “Why am I doing this? What’s the point of this? How much of what you do is just actually taking up time – a pastime, literally a pastime. And how much of it is essential to your life? I’m often caught in those questions!” ‘ (Article text: Garret Bithell)

In case you missed Elissa Blake’s longer, excellent interview about Godot and profile piece on Hugo in the Sydney Morning Herald, I posted scans of the print version in my prior entry, and you can also read it in on SMH’s websiteThe Daily Telegraph interviewed Richard Roxburgh about the production as well. STC posted a colorful profile of playwright Samuel Beckett on their blog.

And if you wanted a smaller, more manageable version of James Brickwood’s  wonderful cover shot for the SMH article, the photographer kindly obliged, posting this to Twitter:

Tim Winton’s The Turning

Following its successful “special” full-length arthouse run in Australia over the past month, The Turning has now opened in New Zealand to mostly-positive reviews. Though the film doesn’t have the gala showcase there that it enjoyed at home, they do appear to be showing the unedited version, which (one hopes) bodes well for further international distribution of the intact film. You can read NZ reviews at Le CulturevoreThe Dominion PostThe New Zealand Herald and Times and Film Ink, meanwhile, documented the film’s successful distribution strategy at home.

Mystery Road

Ivan Sen’s neo-noir-Western continues to receive positive notices after festival screenings in Toronto, Austin and other cities over the past couple of weeks. There was also a special preview screening in Los Angeles on November 4.  You can lead the latest batch of reviews at Access ReelVisited PlanetSmells Like Screen Spirit, Unambitious UsView London Not Now I’m Drinking Beer And Watching A Movie (which also wins the award for Best Blog Name this week.) 😉

Director Ivan Sen and lead actor Aaron Pedersen continue to shoulder most of the promotional duties for the film. You can read their latest online interviews at The Momus Report, Katie Uhlmann Chats (video interviews), and Crosslights.

Scene-stealing costar Uncle Jack Charles was interviewed by ABC Radio. And there’s an article about the film’s sold out screening in Cairns in The Cairns Post.


Though Kim Farrant’s psychological thriller (costarring Nicole Kidman and Guy Pearce) doesn’t start filming until early next year, there continue to be preview pieces about the Broken Hill locations, courtesy ABC OnlineThe Age and The Herald Sun.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

There’s still no clear evidence that Hugo Weaving (or Cate Blanchett) will appear in the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy, but promotion is kicking into high gear, and Hugo hinted he might attend the film’s Wellington premiere (if Godot’s performance schedule allows) in recent interviews. (Actors not in the first film, including Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly, were on hand for last year’s An Unexpected Journey premiere.) New TV promos continue to appear almost daily; you can see the full lot at Warner Bros YouTube channel. I missed the November 4 CNN Event simulcast due to being away in New York, but you can see highlights here, a special behind-the-scenes look here, and the whole shebang here (footage actually begins at 10.00 in.). Hugo Weaving does not seem to have participated, but Peter Jackson and several cast members, including Bloom, Lilly, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Richard Armitage and others were interviewed (Martin Freeman wasn’t on hand, but send a video greeting).

But Peter Jackson’s Production Videos remain the most entertaining vicarious experience of the films-in-progress. Here’s the latest, #12. No Hugo content, but very entertaining nonetheless.  IMO they should leave Gandalf’s cursing and Evangeline Lilly’s bird-flipping in the movie to liven things up. 😉

Those seeking new Elrond footage will probably be happier with the expanded edition of An Unexpected Journey, which hits stores today. Here’s an amusing GIF making the rounds on Tumblr:

Photo GIF: Cumberknit, via Tumblr