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[Herald Review] Senior actors prove age is just a number in sold-out 'Waiting for Godot'

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Jan. 28, 2024 - 14:47

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Shin Gu (left) plays Gogo and Park Geun-hyung plays Didi in Shin Gu (left) plays Gogo and Park Geun-hyung plays Didi in "Waiting for Godot." (Park Company)

The sepia-toned stage stands vacant except for a leafless tree and a solitary rock. The actors appear equally disheveled in their muted, grubby suits, sporting scruffy grey hair. And nothing dramatic unfolds. The two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), wait and wait for Godot, who never arrives.

While one might ask where's the fun in watching someone simply waiting, waiting and waiting, the Korean production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” which kicked off on Dec. 19, is reveling in success. The production has sold out 20 shows since its opening and continues to draw near-capacity audiences, according to the production company, Park Company.

A scene from A scene from "Waiting for Godot." (Park Company)

An absurdist classic, "Waiting for Godot," filled with convoluted lines and seemingly meaningless dialogue, presents inherent challenges for the audience.

However, the seasoned acting and energy of the veteran actor, boasting a collective acting career of over 220 years, cleared these hurdles with ease.

Actor Shin Gu, 87, portrays the weak and forgetful Gogo, while Park Geun-hyung, 83, plays Didi, the more responsible and mature of the two main characters. The back-and-forth lines are impeccable, flowing effortlessly. Throughout the 150-minute runtime, the two show no lack of energy, maintaining the humor of the piece while taking the audience with them during solemn moments as they delve into the futility of life

Pozzo and his slave, Lucky, form another impeccable pair. Passing by the spot where Gogo and Didi wait, they provide a diversion.

Park Jeong-ja plays Lucky in Park Jeong-ja plays Lucky in "Waiting for Godot." (Park Company)

Kim Hak-cheol, 64, takes on the role of Pozzo, and actress Park Jeong-ja, 81, portrays Lucky. This is the first time in Korea a female actor is playing Lucky, a traditionally male character. Park volunteered for the role, expressing a long-held desire to perform in the play since watching the Korean premiere in 1969.

In Act I, when Lucky entertains the three by dancing and thinking, she delivers an incoherent jumble of words for eight whole minutes, leaving the audience astonished at how one could digest so many meaningless lines.

“Waiting for Godot” runs at the National Theater or Korea's Daloreum Theater until Feb. 18, with plans for a nationwide tour from late February to April.