A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Waiting For Godot, Bowler Hats, Irish Pipes & Morris Panych Behaves
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Noël Coward’s diary entry for Saturday August 6, 1960 reads as follows:

...I have just read, very carefully, Waiting for Godot, and it is my considered opinion it is pretentious gibberish, without any claim of importance whatsoever. I know that it received great critical acclaim and I also know that it’s silly to go on saying how stupid critics are, but this really enrages me. It is nothing but phoney surrealism with occasional references to Christ and mankind. It has no form, no basic philosophy and absolutely no lucidity. It’s too conscious to be written off as mad. It’s just a waste of everybody’s time and it made me ashamed that such balls could be taken seriously for a moment…

To be frank I kind of agree with Coward and I have been bored to death the two times I saw this play. But there is one aspect of the play that always made me curious. Why is it that it always features Estragon and Vladimir wearing bowler hats? It seems that when Beckett was writing the play he had no idea of the two characters being tramps. But he is quoted as saying to French director and actor Roger Blin (who directed and acted in the first production of Waiting for Godot, on January 5, 1953) “The only thing I’m sure of is that they’re wearing bowlers.”

While researching this blog I further found out that a character in the play, Pozzo (played in the premiere showing of the play by Roger Blin) presents himself as a conceited landlord. He smokes a pipe, made by Kapp and Peterson, which are Dublin’s best known tobacconists. Their slogan was “The thinking man’s pipe,” which Pozzo refers to as briar but which Estragon calls a dudeen emphasizing the differences in their social standing. “dudeen” [Irish Gaelic dúidin, diminutive of dúd, stump, pipe] emphasizing the differences in their social standing.

This above fact made me smile as I have written of my 10 Petersen pipes here! They were always my favourites in combination with Bell’s Three Nuns Pipe Tobacco (None Nicer!) I thought the long profile of the Petersen pipes made me look that much more sophisticated!

The whole above stuff is but a prelude to an explanation of the photograph you see here which I took March 19, 2006 of theatre director (and actor and playwright) Morris Panych. He was directing Beckett’s Waiting for Godot for the Arts Club Theatre Company at the Stanley. The Straight had dispatched me to photograph him. I was given a few minutes, between rehearsals in the lobby of the Stanley. I had no idea what I was going to do even though I had brought my big camera and my studio lights. I was met by a lovely new publicist (4 or 5 months on the job), Nicole McLuckie who had bright red hair and a most pleasant demeanor. She must have been very nervous as dealing with Panych has never been an easy thing. I decided to go for broke and asked her if she could find me a bowler hat. This she did and I took what is one of my favourite photographs ever. And Panych was uncharacteristically smooth and pleasant.

We never did decide if McLuckie was Estragon or Vladimir. But having observed McLuckie’s considerable publicist skills in the last few years, I would assert there is more of a resemblance to the assertive Vladimir.


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