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Islington Tribune - by SIMON WROE
Published: 7 August 2009

Harry Mitchell, who is set to take his play Still Waiting For Godot at the Edinburgh Festival.
Wait’s over as Harry takes his toilet humour Beckett on tour

TWO tramps and a toilet lie at the heart of an epic tussle between a troupe of schoolboys and the lawyers of a powerful estate.
When the Samuel Beckett Estate objected to City of London school pupils performing modern masterpiece Waiting for Godot in a public lavatory, 17-year-old Harry Mitchell didn’t take no for an answer.
The first-time director from Tytherton Road, Tufnell Park, has rewritten Beckett’s classic play as a lampoon of the estate’s “heavy-handed” rules just in time to be performed at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
It ruled that a public toilet was an inappropriate location for Beckett’s story of two tramps, in which famously nothing happens, twice.
Harry, the son of Roger Michell, director of such films as Notting Hill, originally staged the play in his school loos last August for 20 audience members at a time.
“I decided to set it somewhere I spent a lot of time waiting,” he said. “The toilet setting made the play a lot tenser. We only performed the first half – we couldn’t make people stand in a toilet for two and a half hours.
“The Beckett Estate are notorious for shutting down small plays. We didn’t tell any lies but we did keep the fact it was set in a toilet on the quieter side.”
Strict performance rules forbade the show to be shown to parents but it was so well received by teachers and pupils that the company decided to take it to Edinburgh.
The Beckett Estate initially gave their permission until media interest in the play’s unusual location, in the toilets of Edinburgh’s St James shopping centre, brought a stern refusal.
“[We] do not feel that a public toilet can adhere to all elements of the Play, including but not limited to, costume, set and stage directions,” the letter read.
“We cannot allow [a] production to go ahead that disregards the Author’s wishes so vehemently, especially since you are performing at a high-profile festival.”
With the production £800 in the red, Harry decided to rewrite the play, keeping it as close to the original as possible.
Still Waiting for Godot is about a pair of seasoned theatre critics who have come to see Waiting for Godot to find it cancelled by a neurotic member of the Beckett Estate. The slave character, Lucky, is now a schoolboy.
Characters talk over cubicles and urinals are employed.
Harry added: “We didn’t just want to bash the Beckett Estate, we wanted it to be a play in its own right. The audience should be the critics. I think they should decide, not an estate that hasn’t seen our work.”
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