Sunday, July 31, 2005

Beckett's Hall of fame

In a quietly fascinating piece, Sir Peter Hall reflects on the impact of presenting the English language version of Waiting for Godot for the first time fifty years ago:

This was dramatic poetry — organic, not words applied as verbal sequins. I wondered less and less about what the play meant. It was a metaphor. It meant what it said.

Godot began a process of returning theatre to its metaphorical roots — a process which has continued to this day. It challenged and defeated 100 years of literal naturalism.

Perhaps we need such a controversial hit now, particularly in the novel. Reading of those who scorned the play at the time, it is clear nothing has really changed that much. One need only replace the names and the titles. Then it was the repellent squirt Bernard Levin, today it's 'Skid' Mark Steyn, David Baddiel, Robert McCrum and innumerable others. We might think Levin's contempt was an unfortunate aberration, but there is a reason why the papers are still packed with his modern day equivalents. As the editors of Medialens put it:

Leading commentators are paid vast sums for doing very little. How else are they to make this kind of money? How much better to let someone else ask the tough questions and instead seek job security in bland observations, trivia and obfuscation.

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