Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot is recognised as one of the great plays of the 20th century, but it didn't seem like one to the actors in the first British production at the tiny Arts Theatre in London in 1955.

This photograph shows the original cast, Peter Woodthorpe as Estragon, Peter Bull as Pozzo and Paul Daneman as Vladimir. Director Peter Hall confessed that he had no idea what some of it meant, 'but if we stop and discuss every line we'll never open. I think it may be dramatically effective but there's no hope of finding out till the first night'. Bull admitted that he was less afraid landing on the Italian beach-heads during World War II than facing the opening night audience. Their hostility was only too clear and a mass exodus started soon after the start. The daily papers damned it, but once Kenneth Tynan in The Observer had told his readers that Godot would be 'a conversational necessity for many years' audiences improved. The play transferred to the West End and is now recognised as a classic.