Waiting For Godot

In trying to develop visual representation of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, I began by looking up the definition of dystopia. Of course, Beckett never uses this word himself, in fact, he’d probably argue against the implications of assigning specific terms, but I found myself thinking of the setting in this way, so I went with it. The definition from the Oxford English Dictionary reads: An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible; opp. Utopia. Now, the setting for Godot is certainly not “as bad as possible” (though perhaps it is for the characters who are forced to exist in such a space), but the distinction of it being an “imaginary place” convinced me to avoid the temptation to mimic reality. I needed to create a dream space, one that was neutral, neither nightmare nor fantasy, to allow the action itself to impart a specific tone.

I then began to look at artistic renderings of dystopic societies, and after scouring the internet, artstor, and various other image banks, I decided that Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire series, particularly the last installment (Desolation), was the closest I could get to the tone I perceived in Beckett’s text.

My next step was looking at what inspired Beckett. I felt that it was very important not lose sight of the author’s intentions, whether or not they were entirely clear in his writing. According to Beckett, the idea for Waiting for Godot came to him while looking at a painting - Caspar David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (of which there are three versions). Though he was likely looking at the first manifestation, now in Dresden, I went to the Met to see the third version (which is roughly contemporary with Cole’s Course of Empire), on display in the Northern European Landscape room on the second floor (one of the Henry J. Heinz II galleries). Once I got a good sense of the image, I started looking at other images by the same artist in the hopes of invoking a similar aesthetic in my design.

Lastly, I went through images of productions of Godot, Svoboda, and Craig. My interest in Svoboda was pretty straight forward – he had designed a set for Godot that struck a similar chord to the image of Desolation in the Course of Empire. From there, I moved to Lien Wauters, who invoked a comparable monumentality to that of Svoboda in his production in Antwerp. The large walls reminded me of Craig’s screens. I concluded that employing panels in would allow for a dream-like quality, in which the actors could appear and disappear as though from nowhere. And so with that in mind, I began to formulate an image of my design for Waiting for Godot. It would stand somewhere between Craig, Friedrich, and Cole. The resulting images were pieced together from black and white photography, first “sketched” out in painted ink.

Below is a Prezi I created with the images mentioned above.