The play in itself of course is eternal, and perfect, a prophecy and a pledge.
The play is the thing which calls for an infinity of stars, far more than this amazon can bear, a play as revelatory of humanity as anything from Shakespeare. Really.
In fact I first got into amazon in search of Beckett on Film DVD Set, waiting for the price to drop. I am still waiting, and less enthusiastic about that project, as the Estragon and Didi appear far too young to make sense. Nevertheless, as everywhere, Sir John Gielgud must be seen in his brief piece.
In any case, in acquiring this two disk set of Waiting for Godot, recorded with the great Bert Lahr and EG Marshall early, I do achieve partially that goal, as well as the goal of having long wished to hear this, loving the play and the actors, and thus in this achieving at least one dream of a lifetime.
I have not yet taken the time to sit with text in hand checking for excisions. I believe there may be some, but am not certain. Nevertheless I find something far more distressing: Unoriginal sound effects.
This recording was done in a studio without an audience, most likely a wise decision, although to see Lahr do this live would be a dream. He feels nearly uncertain in the first section, almost intimidated, which is not what we expect of our Cowardly Lion who has braved so many stages with the most outrageous material. Please read from his son: Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr.
This aural-only recording in the studio need mean no loss of understanding to the listener familiar with the action, or rather, most often, non action, of this great play. Where this recording falls done miserably is the imposition of post-production effects on the reading.
Each time Vladimir repeats "Waiting for Godot" and the few times Gogo also does, some post production sound engineer bangs echo effects upon the line. We come to cringe hearing one of the most significant phrases of the play, subtly placed at key places in the flow of the text, knowing that phony echo effect would be thrown on it for no reason whatsoever. Yeah, so, it's the title, and the meaning of their prolonged existence, but so, DO NOT UNDERLINE IT IN BOLD TYPE, please?
The worst, the absolute worse, the unforgivable worse, is what they do to what for me has ALWAYS been the most beautiful and evocative passage of the play, as beautiful as a very careful verbal ballet, the passage around "like leaves." I love to read, and loved to hear in performance, this slowly paced, well spoken series of lines, developing and flowing so elegantly, so very simply, so beautifully. Forgive me please for my lack of eloquence to describe adequately this wonderful passage, which again the post production sound engineer DESTROYS in this recording. It is criminal what is done, and irreparable.
Marshall and Lahr deliver the lines as required, slowly, simply, beautifully, as if they themselves are enjoying taking their time breathing these brief lines.
So what do the criminal producer and sound engineer do? DROWN these fragile lines behind loud post-industrial deconstructivist grating, screeching rusty metal plate noises, louder than the speakers, filling the telling silence we need between each of these lines, the depth of the silence required by this passage, DROWNED with very loud rust-belt whines unending, like a rusted iron plate being ripped unwillingly from a wall. THIS is a crime.
We need to hear this Zen like passage of very short lines, float from one speaker to the other like a silent feather floating on silent air from speaker to speaker, no rush, floating upon the pure eternal cruel emptiness.
And yet some director decides to make his name by covering this great and profound delicacy with industrial white noise.
This is a crime against all humanity, and we lose this great Lahr-Marshall production, this art work, because some director believed he knew better than Beckett and introduced at every point unoriginal noise, including the plucked piano wires heard at the opening of the second act. WHY???
Anyway, if you have some post post production ability and can ERASE these intrusions, go for it, please, and enjoy this gift to humanity as it should be.
Some of the acting seems over-wrought and rushed, too emotional for what we find acceptable now, too much carpet chewing in places, but that also makes sense, though not quite how I hear the play. Some emphases in line readings seems misplaced to me, but still this is Lahr and Marshall and probably as good as it gets, lacking the Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon version.
Please see also Beckett's wonderful novel Mercier and Camier, which I read as a prequel to this excellent, profound, wounded play.