Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

ester, lara and Val

Martin Salter as Ester, Jess Bishop as Lara and Stuart Wishart as Val

Waiting for Waiting for Godot

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Anyone who has seen Sam Beckett’s Waiting for Godot will know it is about . . . well, you’ve seen it so surely I don’t need to explain it, do I? Well, this play is about waiting for waiting for him, Godot that is . . . the clue is in the title really.

So, not a lot happens, waiting is a bit like that, well, it’s a lot like that really, so it’s just as well that as nothing happens there is an endless stream of glorious laughs to fill in the time.

Ester and Val are a pair of jobbing actors and one suspects their level within that Thespian hierarchy is little more than a speaking part up from an extra. They are understudies for the main roles in Beckett’s play about . . . you know . . . Godot, and stuff.

Their moment has yet to come as the two actors actually portraying the roles on stage night after night after night . . . are steadfastly refusing to die, fall ill, be hit by falling spotlights, be sacked or walk out in a huff.

So, Ester and Val spend night after dreary night in costume - just in case (or more desperate hope) – waiting. It’s a wait for something we suspect is never going to happen, which is a bit like what Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon are doing on stage – coincidence or what!

We open with Martin Salter’s Ester desperately trying and failing to fasten a waistcoat that appears to have been tailored for a, should we say, more minimalist figure.

It is a delightful performance from Salter as an actor with a far larger ego than his limited experience and even more limited ability can support. He turns pompous into an art form. With an eye on charging for his make it up as you go along acting courses, he decides to pass on what he regards as his vast knowledge of the actor’s art to his less experienced colleague – vast, and indeed experienced, doing a great deal of hernia inducing heavy lifting here.


There's no business like show business for Val and a less than impressed Ester

Know-it-all Ester, with more bluster than talent, dreams of his moment in the limelight but you feel the dream is far more preferable than the terrifying fear of actually having to go on and . . . do it.

His career highlight appears to have been appearing in Hamlet, (or was it Titus?) in the park. Who he played, whether prince or, more likely, merely a holder for a spear, which park and even when are details which appear to be less important than the fact he had appeared in a production . . . any production.

Stuart Wishart’s Val is the innocent abroad in all this. His experience is . . . you would not be surprised if you were told that this could well be his first real role, and even this role is merely a remote possibility. He fell into acting by accident rather than burning desire.

We meet him when he arrives with takeway coffees from that chain of coffee shops called . . . petrol station, bought, as it turns out, by Aunty Mary, who comes to the show each evening in the hope of seeing Ester and Val actually on stage.

On the face of it Val bows to Ester’s vast experience, his having been a between engagements actor far longer, but is it more just a need to get on together in the confines of a scruffy, dressing room-cum-store room with musty unused costumes and ancient unneeded props for company (excellent set design Keith Rowland and dressing Rowland and Jane Williams). There is a moment when Val dons the waistcoat and we have an insight of what he really thinks of his would be mentor.

In a strange twist it appears Val, the less experienced, less accomplished Val, is a far better and far less hammy actor than Ester will ever be, which hardly helps the relationship, especially when Val appears to have stolen a march on Ester in the actorial representative stakes – although how that relates to peeing in a takeaway coffee cup in a fire bucket while halfway up a ladder defies explanation - just don't try it at home gents, especially if you are married.

With nothing else to do and the boredom threshold long ago breached, our intrepid duo give us their thoughts on life, on ambition, on acting, on art, on the biz, on Macbeth and him, the director.

Into this bizarre cocoon of nightly waiting they have created comes Lara, matter of fact ASM Lara, played by Jess Bishop. Assistant stage managers are among that unsung, unnoticed (unless it all goes wrong) army of support that every production needs – without them the likes of Val and Ester are . . . well blokes standing on un unlit stage with no scenery in an empty theatre.

Godot pair

This waiting game has its ups . . .  and downs for Val and Ester

The pressing problem is the waistcoat. It appears the actor on stage is wearing one that appears to be for a more corpulent actor, say, around Ester’s size perhaps, and she is looking for the other, smaller one . . .

Lara does not have too much time for actors, unlike ASMs, an actor’s job is easy she tells our hapless pair. “Actors wear clothes that someone else made, stand where someone else tells them to whilst saying words that someone else wrote. Anyone can do it.”

Challenged she makes her point performing a dramatic monologue using the tech script with all its LX (lighting) Qs.

For a play with nothing happening, American author Dave Hanson, has squeezed an enormous number of laughs and theatrical jokes into his delightful play which launched in New York in 2013. Ester declares no one goes to RADA, or Radar, as he calls it, which means he is somewhat deflated when Lara declares her cousin went there.

He also tries to teach Val his made up on the spur of the moment acting techniques, based on things he presumably half heard somewhere or other, such as the Miserly acting technique, repeating a line said to you – a tiny part of the Meisner Technique to encourage instinctive acting – a lesson leading to a repetition from the pair that could almost have taken us to dawn.

Then there was the Mamet, pronounced by Ester as Mammais, technique, of swearing at an audience – David Mamet being best known for his expletive ridden, as in every other word, Glengarry Glen Ross, among 'effin other plays.

Beckett’s absurdist play has two blokes waiting for a guy they don’t know and have never met who never comes.

Hanson has two blokes waiting to perform a play they don’t understand (hands up anyone who claims to understand it), have never performed, and are unlikely to ever perform, but wait night after night just the same.

There is Val, feet on the ground Val, who just meanders along with it, it’s a job after all and what comes comes, and Ester, rather sad, hopeless and helpless dreamer Ester, who lives and breathes acting, or at least his one afternoon acting course version of it. And then there is Lara, the only one with an actual job doing anything in theatre.

It is full of its own version of absurd, delightfully daft, yet Hanson, from nowhere, conjures up a moment of emotion, which strikes home like a sniper’s bullet, totally unexpected and strangely moving, creating a moral dilemma for our understudies. Has the chance come at last or has it passed for ever?

I enjoyed every nothing much happening here minute of it, from cluttered set to Godotesque costumes (Carol Wright – loved Ester’s ripped trousers), clever LX ,as Ester will no doubt now call it, from director Joe Haper and superb and convincing acting from an excellent trio.

Once more, professional standard from The Nonentities and a richly, entertaining delight from costume battling start to sad, opening lines end. To 13-04-24.

Roger Clarke


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