Waiting for Godot

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Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) [1]

The original text

One of the most influential plays of the twentieth century, Beckett’s Absurdist masterpiece of two clowns waiting for the "coming" of the enigmatic "Godot" has been performed in numerous guises across the world by professionals, amateurs and students.

Published by Faber and Faber, 1956.

Translations and adaptations

Locally it has also had an enormous influence on the nature of South African theatre, inter alia on the work of Athol Fugard (see Boesman and Lena for example), Bartho Smit, André P. Brink and Charles J. Fourie. (See Absurdist Theatre in Part 3 Section 1: Terminology*?)

In 1980 it was given an "African flavour" by director Donald Howarth for his production at the Baxter Theatre, adding an the arid set, a parched sky and a lullaby crooned in Xhosa.

Duckrabbit (Lara Foot-Newton and Gerhard Marx) staged a Karoo version of Waiting for Godot. 2001: Produced and directed by Lara Foot-Newton’s production for the 2001 Grahamstown Festival with Seputla Sebogodi, Lionel Newton, Robert Whitehead and Bheki Vilakazi).

Adapted and translated into Afrikaans by Suseth Brits (Suseth Wilcocks) as Afspraak met Godot.

Actress & Girl is a two-woman play, based on Waiting for Godot and created and performed by Maude Sandham and Rachael Neary , two young theatre-makers in South Africa, produced by Masidlale Productions[i]. Performed at the Musho! Festival 2015. http://original-vs-copy.interartive.org/2015/07/jacobs/

Performance history in South Africa

1955-6: First produced professionally in South Africa by Leonard Schach on his return from an overseas excursion in 1955. It opened at the Little Theatre in Cape Town with Gavin Haughton as Vladimir and Alec Bell as Estragon, also starring Donald Inskip (Lucky), Gordon Roberts (Pazzo) and Frank Rothgiesser (A Boy). Decor by Cecil Pym and lighting by E.G. Marshall. The play was also presented at the Hofmeyr Theatre and then taken on a tour of several country towns in South Africa under Brian Brooke’s management. Schach claims that Cape Town audiences saw it before any other English language audiences, outside of London.

1959: Schach then collaborated with Leon Gluckman and Taubie Kushlick as co-producers to stage it once again, this time at the Technical College Hall in 1956, starring Alec Bell, Gerrit Wessels and Gavin Haughton.

1959: Presented in the NTO Kamertoneel, Pretoria, from 2 to 13 July, directed by Tone Brulin with Brulin, David Herbert, Gabriel Bayman (Pozzo), Gerrit Wessels (Lucky) and Ivor Kruger.

1962: A production of the play was directed by Athol Fugard in the AMDA Rehearsal Room, with a cast including Connie Mabaso (Estragon) David Phetoe (Vladimir), Gilbert Xaba and Job Mnisi.

1965: Presented by the University of Cape Town Department of Speech and Drama at the Little Theatre, directed by Robert Mohr, starring Frank Lazarus (Extragon), John Mitchell (Vladimir), Joey Wishnia (Lucky), Roy Sargeant (Pozzo) and Chronis Papacostas (A Boy). Set designed by Keith Anderson, costumes by Helen Rooza, lighting by Cliff Taylor.

1970: A PACOFS production was directed by Bill Smuts for PACT, 1970. Three black and white photographs of Neels Coetzee, William Egan, George Barnes and Leon Cloete in scenes from the PACOFS production of Waiting for Godot. Directed by Bill Smuts, 1970.

1971: Performed by the Wits University Players on Tuesday 6 July 1971 starring John Coulton, John Jackson, Malcolm Rosenfeld, Bill Stevens, Johnny Levin. Directed by Frank Morton. (TECON).

1976: A workshopped version with the all-black cast of James Mthoba and Sam Williams, directed by Benjy Francis (Durban, Soweto and Upstairs at the Market).

1976: Rhodes University Drama Department directed by Graham Brown and Richard McKenzie in September 1976 starring, among others, Dennis Gazard and John Maytham.

1980: Staged at the Baxter Theatre, directed by Donald Howarth, with John Kani ("Vladimir"), Winston Ntshona ("Estragon"), Pieter-Dirk Uys ("Pozzo"), Peter Piccolo ("Lucky") and Silamour Philander ("the messenger"). The multiracial cast, approved by Beckett himself, caused quite a stir back then, but the play received good reviews. After the Cape Town run, the play was also performed at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, the Port Elizabeth Opera House, and the Market Theatre, Johannesburg (in the latter case, playing for three weeks).

1981: The Baxter Theatre production went on an international tour to the USA and Britain, with Bill Flynn now taking over the role of "Pozzo" from Uys. The tour included New Haven, Connecticut, the Old Vic Theatre in London and the Oxford Playhouse in Oxford. It was also invited to participate in the First International Baltimore Theatre Festival but on arrival the play was picketed by anti-Apartheid demonstrators for the seemingly bizarre reason that it and the Baxter theatre were viewed by the demonstrators as "part and parcel of the South African propaganda machine to misrepresent what was taking place in the country". So the performances were was called off.

1991: PACT Drama, November 1991, directed by Dieter Reible, the cast consisted of Michael McCabe as Estragon, Dale Cutts as Vladimir, Louis van Niekerk as Pozzo and James Borthwick portrayed Lucky.

1998: Staged in the Thabong Theatre at The Civic in Johannesburg in June 1998, directed by Maralin Vanrenen, with James Ngcobo, Russel Savadier, André-Jacques van der Merwe and Christopher Kindo.

2010: After two years of touring with a critically acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot, British actor Ian McKellen [2] and his cast were in SA to perform Beckett's seminal play at The Fugard Theatre. The play was directed by Sean Mathias.


Theatre programme (PACOFS 1970): NELM [Collection: Performing Arts Council Orange Free State (PACOFS)]: 2009. 67. 1. 2. 49).

Lantern, December 1959.

Photograph (1962 production) held by NELM: Photograph collection, large format [Collection: MISCELLANEOUS]: 2005. 20. 71.

Inskip, 1977. p 119.

Theatre programmes Little Theatre (1955), UCT (1965) and Baxter (1980).

PACT Info (1), 1991-1992.


Business Day, 7 September 2010.

Schach 1996.

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