As I continue to struggle to memorize Lucky’s Speech from Waiting for Godot, there are two things on my mind: panhandlers and changes in absurdist theater.
Lucky’s speech is of great value if you wish to navigate the great cities of America and avoid panhandlers. There is nothing like talking to yourself to keep panhandlers—who are generally rational and know that crazy people are both dangerous and unlikely to contribute—from bothering you. But what to say? “As a result of the labors left unfinished crowed by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard” of course! Trust me: I do it all the time. It works great.
When I was still a boy, I discovered Eugène Ionesco’s plays like The Bald Soprano. And I loved them because I was young and pretentious (unlike now when I’m not young). One thing that bothered me was how much shouting was in these plays. The most common stage direction was “shouting.” But other than the filmed version of Rhinoceros, I had never seen any of the plays. And there was very little shouting in Rhinoceros.
The stage notes before Lucky’s Speech are definitely in this tradition:
That’s two references to shouting here! And yet, this is never the way the speech is given. This is clear in the following clip that was based upon Beckett’s notes from a production that he directed:
I think the whole “let’s have people shout on stage” aspect of absurdist theater was only thought to be a good idea as long as no one was performing the plays. Once the plays were performed, it was clear that even in revolutionary theater, you still want emotion and nuance.
The image in this article is a detail of an image (partially enhanced so you can read it) from the article Broke-Ass Career: Panhandling. It is well worth checking out, if only for the pictures.