by Serubiri Moses
Waiting for Train implicates the things we do while waiting. In this particular situation, you are waiting on a platform for a train that’s not coming. How does one escape the time? Some of the things we do when killing time are completely neurotic, or repetitive things. These repetitive actions lead us to seeing the core drama of the play.
There’s a neurotic sense in which one character turns the knob of the radio; changing the station, going through a few channels, the constant glitches as we move from one radio song to another, implicate the banality of the experience of humans in waiting.
It is as if one is waiting in the wings for their turn to take charge of the platform: to command the train; and meanwhile that chance to show power has not arrived.
In that sense, the play, Waiting For Train, shows the power of the train, as a medium of time. The play shows the oppressive nature of political time. In this sense, the power inherent within a political regime of time makes the connection between this play and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. Even in that play we witness two men neurotically waiting for Godot, under an oppressive regime of time.
I am also reminded about the helplessness that a man played by Tom Hanks goes through waiting for his flight at an airport, and how in that film, Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal, time theatens to destroy the man physically and mentally. Yet in Waiting for Train what is at stake is the relation between two men, as they wait for that fatal and final end, out of which time will consume them both.
It becomes clearer, in the use of the National Theatre stage, that there is an unusual quality of the two actors’ relation to space, their use of the stage technology as props draws us to the way in which we can easily ‘kill’ time by paying attention to what is around us.
The sense within the play for the characters to accept the oppressive past, present, and future is really about the use of space, and how space provides freedom to begin grappling with emotional reality; how space eases the anxiety of waiting.
Because the play is also silent, like a silent film, there is a profound realization through it that while silence is oppressive in a political sense, such as those caught in genocide in Kosovo; in Rwanda, who out of the deracinating inhuman violence have lost their voice, silence can also open up a space for self-realization, as well as self-inspection, turning away of text, speech, and contextual information. Silence opens up room for another human possibility of interaction, with gestures, with non-verbal acknowledgement, and with expressing human fragility.