Waiting for Godot Papermill Theatre, Toronto ON August 17

Marrying Joy Division and Samuel Beckett’s landmark play seems like such a natural idea that it’s surprising someone hasn’t done it already. For a brief run into September, Remain in Light, a Toronto theatrical troupe, have taken Waiting For Godot and married it to Joy Division’s soundtrack of moody magnificence. The play follows two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for a mysterious figure named Godot. For two days they wait by a country road marked only by a tree. They eat, sleep, quarrel, sing, piss and even consider suicide as they wait for a guy they don’t even know but who will somehow "save” them. Enter Pozzo and his slave Lucky, here re-cast as a Nazi officer and his Jewish prisoner tied to a rope. The next day Lucky now leads Pozzo who has turned blind and has lost much of his memory. However, Pozzo has gained wisdom and delivers the play’s key line about the preciousness of life: "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” After Pozzo and Lucky leave, a boy arrives to announce that Godot will in fact turn up the next day. Vladimir and Estragon decide to leave, but in fact continue to wait. The key to Godot lies in its open interpretation. It could be about Cold War politics (the play premiered in 1953), psychoanalysis, religion (Godot as God) and most frequently existentialism confronting issues of mortality and existence. Joy Division’s brooding, introspective music is an intuitive fit, which Hirsh and Seeley exploit with "Eternal,” "Atrocity Exhibition” and "Atmosphere.” However, they could have gone further without turning the play into a rock musical. In fact, the most effect use of music belongs to the Smiths’ "Asleep,” played when the two tramps doze in the falling snow. Joy Division fans will be flattered by this version, but not overwhelmed. Going beyond the music, the performances succeed in capturing the crisp tempo of Beckett’s dialogue, while the re-casting of Pozzo and Lucky as a Nazi and Jew is a smart move. Overall, the performances are respectable, but not towering. This is a good Godot, but not extraordinary as promised.