Yesterday I had a chance to see a preview performance of Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot, with Nathan Lane as Estragon, Bill Irwin as Vladimir, John Goodman as Pozzo and John Glover as Lucky. All in all, it was a great performance, albeit the execution was a bit on the literal side. For a contemporary revival of the minimalist classic, I had expected the production to take a few more liberties. But I'm quibbling about the miniscule. In total, the production was great and very true to the script. Perhaps the crowning moment was Lucky's famous "think," expertly performed by Glover.
But the issue of literal performance has stayed with me and has made me wonder: how much should plays or movies diverge from the original written text and still maintain the story's integrity? I felt that Godot might have taken more liberties, particularly in the direction of minimalism, given Becket's string of progressively more minimalist plays that came after Godot (Play and Rockabye come to mind.) It seemed that certain things like the costumes and set could have been even more simple, stark and bare than they were. I suppose, though, that this is the beauty of a Becket script in that each motion, each expression is carefully mapped out, leaving little room for such liberties. Even the most minimalist of his plays are still very detailed in the stage directions, allowing us the confidence of knowing that a script closely follows depicts Becket's original vision.
But what if that's not Becket's original intent at all? What if the subsequent plays challenge us to reinterpret the earlier ones and perhaps adapt them to a more minimal, stripped down vision? As a writer, this question is an important one because with every subsequent work we produce, we provide our readers with more context through which to view earlier works.
This brings up questions for me particularly as a writer who wants to write both for children and adults. If I have started my publishing career with short fiction targeting the literary market, what will happen when I move on to teen and pre-teen fiction? I suppose many writers also have this question relating to genres... if they start out in one genre, what will happen if they decide to switch?
I have no idea.