If Beckett’s ‘Waiting For Godot’ was based in Sri Lanka….

Time and time again, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953) has been enacted within a political context at varying degrees. In 1984 in Haifa, Ilan Ronen had the protagonists Vadimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) be Arab construction workers in Israel, who would wait to be hired. Donald Howarth’s 1980 version in Cape Town was meant to make a statement about relationships between black South Africans and white South Africans during the Apartheid era. For Susan Sontag’s production in Sarajevo in 1993, it was an “act of defiance against a world which appeared content to stand by and watch” during the Serb bombardment of Sarajevo (Bradby 165). She pushed for her performances to be “full of anguish, of immense sadness, and toward the end, violence” (Bradby 166).

If I were to produce my own take on Beckett’s classic, it would be set between 2010 and 2014 and take place in the popular Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf café in Colombo, Sri Lanka. These specific years are in reference to a time when the country was in its last years under ‘a failed dictatorship’. I chose these years specifically because I was living in Sri Lanka up until this time, and so have not experienced conditions under the new government. To begin with, Pozzo and Lucky would be a comedic duo of politicians who represent both the ignorance and the idiocy of the government. Didi and Gogo however, would represent the Colombo youth.

Coffee Bean, as it is referred to, is a popular café for people of all ages to meet for casual or professional reasons. It is also a common meeting place for high school students or college undergraduates as it is the perfect place to have a formal meeting without any sort of pressure attached. Over mochas and lattes, seated on the comfy leather chairs, is where the youth of Colombo organize conferences that aim to empower the youth or plan events to help the local community in some way. To speak in general terms, the problem with Sri Lanka is that there is much talk but little support or action taken. Kudos to the youth of Colombo for finding a time to meet to discuss some cause, like finding ways to promote unity in the multiethnic country, but in a group of ten or fifteen only a third will show up and only a couple will actually turn words into action. There is a desire to delay words that should be spoken now, and actions that need to be taken now. Far too often does sheer laziness get in the way of any meaningful change being made.

On a much more personal note, I cannot help but imagining Didi and Gogo as an elderly heterosexual couple. In their late seventies, Grandma Didi and Grandpa Gogo want to leave their home and explore, but there is always something holding them back. Pozzo and Lucky would signify younger versions of themselves, full of energy and going where they please and saying whatever they please.

In all honesty, the idea of Didi and Gogo being played by an elderly couple is based on my parents. My parents are near their sixties but they seem like they are in their thirties. They are not afraid of anything or anyone. Most of our family though, lives on the other side of the world. Torn between Sri Lanka and Peru, my parents always talk about one day leaving and moving to live in Peru, but something always keeps them from going; the reasons have mainly been work related. They are waiting for some miracle to happen that will force them to leave. As much as I would like them to drop everything and just go, I understand that they cannot afford to without securing employment, or maybe winning the lottery. The more they wait, the more I feel like perhaps it is not in their hand of cards to leave. Perhaps they are condemned to live alone together in an island to which their children will never return to. We have our lives to live and as much as Sri Lanka will always be a home, it is now a place to go for holiday, but not to live.

 

Works Cited:
Bradby, David. Beckett: Waiting for Godot. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2001. Print.

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