Teens explore life’s meaning in theatre production

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Cochrane High School’s annual holiday theatre production did not shy away from subject matter designed to make you think, and it forced the audience – and the actors – to confront the notion of a life worth lived.

Last week, over two nights, a tight group of five talented youth actors tackled Samuel Beckett’s simple – yet complicated – play Waiting for Godot.

The British Royal National Theatre has called Waiting for Godot the “most significant English play of the 20th century.” It is, at its core, a story about two longtime friends who wait (and wait) for a man named Godot – the latter of whom never arrives.

Senior student and veteran performer Mackenzie Ireland embodied the essence of a man with her inspired take on Vladimir (nicknamed Didi), one of the play’s two main characters. Ireland’s physicality was a talented trick of the eye, and Didi’s loneliness was palpable as a result of her reserved yet emotional portrayal.

Through Ireland, the audience at once wants to beg Didi to give up the sad notion that Godot will ever arrive to save him and his friend Estragon – while at once wanting Godot to actually show up, so Didi can finally have the happiness and peace he so desperately seeks.

Paired with Ireland was relative newcomer April Rask, who played Didi’s constant companion Estragon (nicknamed Gogo). Rask captured Gogo’s simple charm, and her chemistry with Ireland made the leads’ relationship feel genuine and true.

While short on dialogue, Max Strasser’s performance of slave Lucky was devastating – his broken body and sorrowful eyes told the tale of his torment more effectively than any words could. As The Boy, student Shaylin Schartner represented the only proof of Godot’s existence – as the innocent and wide-eyed messenger, she offered both hope and despair each time she uttered a “yes, sir” or a “no, sir.”

Finally, Grade 11 student Kianna King delivered a spirited and powerful performance as Lucky’s slave driver, Pozzo. King conquered the disturbed persona with her penetrating glare and heart-pounding cracks of the whip, which kept the audience in line as much as Lucky. Her unique execution of the character was a marvel to watch.

Known as a “tragicomedy in two acts,” the meaning of Waiting for Godot has been endlessly explored, interpreted and debated.

The Cochrane High Students worked on the play nearly every day from March to December (save for summer break), and each looked at to their characters a different form of self-damning.

The group came to understand the elusive Godot to be death – and the duo’s incessant waiting for him expressed the senselessness of wasting a life consumed by something you cannot, ultimately, control.

“These guys are in this continuous loop,” said Ireland, who is headed to University of Alberta next fall to study theatre.

“Don’t wait for the ‘What ifs.’”

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