Nothing Happens (Twice) at Oxford - the funniest show I’ve seen in years
Nothing Happens (Twice) at the Burton Taylor Studio on Tuesday, April 5. Review by JON LEWIS
Creating for Godot
Spanish comediennes Mercè Ribot and Patricia Rodriguez wanted to perform Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot having enjoyed success with their company, Little Soldier, when they toured The Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote of La Mancha to venues like Oxford’s North Wall. They were turned down by the Beckett Estate because women cannot perform male roles. Instead, the actresses cheekily created a show, Nothing Happens (Twice) – the title coming from Irish critic Vivian Mercier’s review of Beckett’s classic in 1956 – about failing to stage Waiting For Godot. Their performance at the Burton Taylor Studio is the funniest show I’ve seen in years.
Email correspondence to and from the Beckett Estate’s gatekeeper, a certain Georgie ‘the controlling one’, are projected onto a screen. Georgie rejects Ribot and Rodriguez’ point that they were not intending to change the gender of Vladimir and Estragon as they would be played ‘as men’. Nothing Happens (Twice) is structured cleverly with a fifteen minute ‘interval’ in a 60-minute show, a nonsense ruse to get around any infringements of the Beckett Estate regulations. They take out a text of Waiting For Godot, claiming to have learned every line, and then ask the audience to test them by reading out lines at random. It becomes a game show, the pair generating such enthusiasm that we are all but cheering them on as they get the lines right. And they serve white wine to the audience to prove it’s an interval.
The actresses show a film of some pandemic employment gained from the Spanish Tourist Board where they are promoting Andalusia in Stratford’s Westfield shopping centre, performing a rap dressed as pink flamingos. The first time we see the routine, they are full of energy; the second time, it is speeded up, the third time anger intrudes and the fourth time boredom. It’s a perfect metaphor for the meaninglessness of existence found in the Beckett.
Beckett enthusiasts will lap up the lip-synching to Peter Hall’s commentary on the first British performance of Waiting for Godot, and a Not I skit, the pair speaking through a hole in their hats.