Nothing Happens (Twice) – Little Soldier Productions / Jacksons Lane Arts Centre, London
March 12, 2023
Read the Salterton Arts Reviews article
A meta-theatrical response to Waiting for Godot- Nothing Happens (Twice) is so witty and honest that for me it surpasses the original entirely and will become the yardstick by which I measure Beckett.
Nothing Happens (Twice)
What do you do when you want to performWaiting for Godotbut you can’t get the rights because you’re women? What do you do when you’re at a low ebb in your acting career and the only work on offer is performing for the Andalusian Tourist Board at Westfield in Stratford? For that matter, what do you do when you’re not sure if you want to continue with your theatre company because you don’t know if it brings out the best in you any more…?
It turns out the answer to all three of these questions is to channel it into a new work, a play about waiting forWaiting for Godot. Mercè Ribot and Patrícia Rodríguez are together Little Soldier Productions. These two Spanish women met in London and make work mostly (but not entirely) in English. From the time they first spit-balled ideas about the sorts of theatre, they wanted to create, Waiting for Godothas been on the list. Samuel Beckett’s 1953 play is still (apparently) one of the most frequently performed plays globally, an absurdist work in which two (sometimes four) men pass the time while they wait for Godot. Spoiler alert: he never arrives. Then it starts all over again. Is it about the futility of life? Or perhaps Freudian? Is it autobiographical? Perhaps yes to all. But one famous summary of Waiting for Godot is that ‘nothing happens, twice.’
Waiting For Waiting For Godot
There’s just one issue with Little Soldier Productions wanting to stage Waiting for Godot and that’s that Beckett objected to women being cast in his play (as well as to it being performed in translation). And those who manage the rights to his work on behalf of his estate enforce this. We learn this during Nothing Happens (Twice), because Ribot and Rodríguez incorporate the very emails into their show.
Theatre as a career is under the microscope here. All the ways in which it can wear you down: the small parts, the typecasting, the inattentive audiences. Juggling work and life and admin and acting and struggling to make ends meet. The parallel’s to Beckett’s world of meaningless repetition are apparent, and are cleverly reinforced in Nothing Happens (Twice) by the repetition of the Andalusian tourism rap the two performed multiple times a day to a shopping mall crowd. It gets funnier but also more fraught with existential dread each time it happens.
There is such a lot packed into this show in 60 short minutes. The various autobiographical narrative strands. Physical comedy, both as part of and in addition to the Andalusian rap. Snippets of interviews with famous men talking about their wonderful experiences of Waiting for Godot. Email and text exchanges are incorporated into the action. An interval in which copyright laws are put through their paces. It’s like a burst of creativity with equal parts side-splitting comedy and soul-baring honesty. A triumph which has come from adversity.
Better Than Beckett?
It’s a big claim, but hear me out here. I have a conflicted relationship with Waiting for Godot. My undergraduate degree was in French, so it’s basically the law that at some point you study En attendant Godot. I’ve seen versions on stage, too. One memorable one was years ago when I was living in Korea and went with a friend to a version in the style of traditional Chinese theatre, in Chinese with Korean and English subtitles. By the time it got to the interval, we reasoned that the second half is basically the first half again, so maybe it’s fine if we leave now. Get ahead of the crowds? So we did. In hindsight, perhaps that was an unauthorised version…
Anyway, the point is that I find Waiting for Godot worthy but not necessarily enjoyable. It’s important literature, sure, but it does drag on a bit. Not so Nothing Happens (Twice). It’s got all the elements of Waiting for Godot and some of the lines (quoted and appropriately attributed, thank you Beckett estate). It explores meaning and futility, friendship and patience. But it’s so funny and cheeky and brimming with life and energy that you can’t help but be captivated. The press night audience was cheerfully heading down the aisles to grab an interval glass of wine, helping Ribot and Rodríguez to read lines, fully drawn in by the two women’s ability to create a real connection and rapport. It’s a proper underdog story, a love letter to each other, a statement of intent, and one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages.
Nothing Happens (Twice) was at Jacksons Lane Art Centre (in itself an interesting venue) for its press night and is now on tour.