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Waiting For Godot

Sheffield Theatres has kicked off 2016 with a month's rehearsals for its February production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. We spoke to Charlotte Gwinner, Associate Director at Sheffield Theatres, about her upcoming production, the challenges of staging Beckett's most famous play, and why you should go and see it.

For people not familiar with Waiting for Godot, what can they expect from the play?

I think the play holds universality that means it can resonate with all kinds of audiences. It's a play that holds such incredible power to affect those who see it. Back in 1957, it was put on by a group of inmates in San Quentin State Prison and completely captivated its audience. They were brought to an incredible stillness by the performance. It actually inspired a theatre group to be set up in the prison that is still active.

I think almost anyone can relate to Beckett's portrayal of waiting or trying to escape from waiting, whether that be someone working a regular job or somebody who is about to die. It offers a particular truth about time and existence, so I think audiences can expect to identify with the play whilst also being challenged by it in that identification.

What is it about the play that made you want to direct it?

Waiting for Godot is a hugely challenging play to direct and I think that's what really appealed to me. It involves a lot of physical activity and the language and rhythm of the play presents a difficulty that I really have relished exploring in rehearsals. I first learnt what it was to be a director working on some Beckett shorts, so for me this was a bit of an apex, working on a play that does everything that really great play writing, in my view, needs to do.

What are the specific challenges of staging a play that is as well-known as Waiting for Godot?

I think you need to get the idea that you are obligated to do something unique off your shoulder from the start. If you come in with an idea of putting something on to the play or reinventing it, that would be a completely different approach and would involve a huge amount of editing, which we haven't had time to do. I'm more interested in 'doing the play'. It presents enough complexity in and of itself, that to simply attend to the specificities of the writing is the challenge. Waiting for Godot isn't just a play about waiting. It's a play about what is done to avoid waiting through intense physical and verbal activity. It is highly specific and highly energised.

It's a challenge in rehearsals, because you can't let the ball drop. My aim is to address the specific demands of the play and in that create something unique.

What in particular do you like about working at Sheffield Theatres?

I love Sheffield as a city. I think it has an incredible warmth, humour and independence, as well as a fantastic generosity towards and understanding of theatre. I also think it's an incredible opportunity to work on the Crucible stage, one of the greatest and most versatile stages in the UK.

What can we expect from you in the future? What kind of work are you interested in directing?

There's a huge canon of untapped plays by women that deserve to be seen on big stages with a bold and strong muscle behind them. We too often look at putting on male writers instead of female writers. I want to explore a diverse and pluralistic programme that also involves different types of actors too. Alongside this, I'm also looking for plays that are challenging, that teach me something about the process of directing as I work on them.

Catherine Dickinson

Waiting for Godot runs from 4-27 February at the Crucible. Users of the Now Then Discounts App can get £5 off tickets for performances on 5,6 and 9 February.


In amongst the hidden corridors, stockrooms, closets and the never-ending basement of the old Woolworths building lies the creative workspace of Theatre Delicatessen. Originally from London, the organisation have now set up (old) shop in Sheffield with the aim of providing support for local theatre companies and early career artists. Unlike regular theatres, the Deli team can be highly nimble with their style of productions and are not averse to 48-hour programmes ranging from children’s shows and shadow puppetry to monologues and late-night horror.

Producer Sarah Sharp is pleased with the response the space has had to date and spoke with passion and pleasure about the upcoming schedule.

“We want to be very open and accessible with our shows. We’re so happy with the response we’ve received to date, both from the public and artists. We really want to be seen as a platform for struggling theatre makers and artists at the start of their career.

“Because we don’t pay rent on the building, it means we can offer more support for the artists. But public support is the key. We need to encourage people to get away from their TV box sets and go and see some theatre.”

Theatre Delicatessen kicked off their year with Unaccompanied on 28 January, before an exciting and busy season brings the Reckless Sleepers interpretation of The Last Supper to town (16-20 Feb), followed by the Travelling Shadow Theatre’s presentation of The Death Curiosities (25-26 Feb). You could do worse than wrapping up warm and heading out this winter for some original and inspiring theatre.

Phill James

The Owl and The Pussycat's Treasure of Nonsense

23 January
Montgomery Theatre

The Owl and the Pussycat's Treasury of Nonsense does Edward Lear proud. A stuffy, secretive poet with some decidedly owl like mannerisms - glasses, feathered breeches - is writing limericks at his desk and hoping to write his greatest masterpiece. Unfortunately he is pestered by a mischievous, playful lady with a tail on the back of her skirt, who leaps around gracefully and hisses when she's annoyed.

Yes, it's The Owl and the Pussycat, and an hour of puppetry, poetry reading, music and gorgeous vintage set design leads up to a charming musical version of the title poem to finish. The two actors and puppeteers have a ball turning everyday objects into magical creatures and landscapes. My three-year-old giggled throughout, enjoyed the poems, and got out of her seat to dance to the final song. Truly magical.

Phill James

Stage Listings

The Last Supper
16-20 February | Theatre Delicatessen | £12

A creative, interactive theatre piece from Reckless Sleepers, The Last Supper explores death, fame and last words through the lives of criminals, heroes and stars. Limited to 39 seats, each audience member will be given a table number, 13 of which are final meal requests. Link

The Nap
10-26 March | Crucible | £22

From the award-winning writer of One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean, The Nap is a comedy thriller following the life of Sheffield snooker player Dylan Spokes as he moves into the big time in his home town. There will be a 'talkback' event on Monday 21 March after the 7:30pm performance, with the cast and creative team talking and answering questions from the audience. Link

Into The Hoods: Remixed
22-23 March | Lyceum | £16-23

A newly revamped version of the popular, award-winning West End production, Into The Hoods: Remixed follows two lost school kids from the Ruff Endz Estate, who on their quest to find a selection of coveted items encounter such characters as DJ Spinderella, singer Lil Red, rapper Rap On Zel and producer Jaxx. Link

The Last Five Years
14-16 April | Theatre Delicatessen | £9

Colla Voce Theatre's The Last Five Years is a musical by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown exploring two perspectives on a marriage, drawing out moments of tenderness and hilarity across its five-year lifespan Link

Single Spies
26-30 April | Lyceum | £18-26

This version of Alan Bennett's comedy masterpiece springs from a collaboration between Chichester Festival Theatre and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Single Spies follows two members of the Cambridge Five spy ring in the 1950s across the globe, exploring society's fascinating with royalty and Russian spies. Link

Also at Sheffield Theatres this month: A Raisin In The Sun (until 13 Feb) and King Charles III (until 6 Feb)


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