Samuel Beckett’s idea of being picnicky is to be separate, unhappy, and poorly fed. So in Waiting for Godot (En antendant Godot), the picnic is topsy-turvy: the setting, a bleak tree without leaves; the atmosphere, foreboding; the food, meagre, and the camaraderie, nil. The first production directed by Roger Blin used a tight cramped stage intended to make the audience uncomfortable.
Vladimir and Estragon meet Pozzo and Lucky settling in for a picnic. Pozzo is brandishing a whip and holds Lucky at the end of a long heavy rope, like a packhorse laden with a basket, and valise, an overcoat, and a campstool. He can barely stand.
But nearly starving, Vladimir and Estragon cozy up to Estragon in hopes of being asked to join the picnic. But they only watch, hoping to glean some scraps from Lucky’s “picnic basket” [panier à provisions], as Lucky serves Pozzo wine and cold chicken. It’s a miserable meal, and while Pozzo eats with gusto, even Lucky is not offered a share.
When Pozzo is finished and throws his chicken bones on the ground, Estragon pounces and gnaws them as if eating real flesh. Emulating Pozzo, he does not share his “bounty” with his pal Vladimir, who like Lucky, accepts the snub without comment. When he’s finished, he puts the bare bones in his pocket.
PS: For Beckett’s picnic in Malone Dies (1956), a gruesome succession of murders, look elsewhere on PicnicWit.]
See: Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot, a Tragicomedy in Two Acts. New York: Grove Press, 1954.
Featured Image: Beckett might have considered the mountain ridge in the setting too ornate. Anthony Page. Waiting for Godot. Roundabout Theatre: New York (2009). Set design by Tom Watson. Four picnickers: Lucky (John Glover), Vladimir (Bill Irwin), Estragon (Nathan Lane) , and Pozzo (John Goodman). Photo by Joan Marcus.