Ever wondered what happened when one-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion André the Giant befriended Irish novelist, playwright, and poet, Samuel Beckett?
Well don’t worry, Sky Arts’ Urban Myths is here to quench your curiosity in the latest of their “true…ish” stories.
Whilst Beckett himself hasn’t spoken about their time together, the former professional wrestler André Roussimof, has recounted the journeys they took when the Irishman drove him to school as a boy.
But just how did the man behind Waiting For Godot hook up with Fezzik from The Princess Bride?
Beckett had employed the services of builder Boris Rousimoff in Ussy-sur-Marne, just outside Paris, France, to construct a cottage. The builder’s son, the aforementioned Andre, isn’t even in his teens but is almost two meters tall and piques the interest of the Irishman who decides that schooling would be best for the boy and drives him each day. And so begins their charming Pygmalion-esque relationship.
Though their friendship is a delight to watch, with gems like Andre admitting he was keen to go to Paris because of all the “forward women” he’s learned about through a friend’s “uncle”, it’s the backwards and forwards between the playwright and his builder that elicits the most laughter.
Somewhat relying on the stereotype of the French work ethic, Boris’s three months to build the cottage are woefully underestimated. But, it’s his excuses and metaphors for the delays that delight Beckett so, being as poetic, eloquent and considered as his own work. Aside from too much moisture in the air and evil sheep that render his men paranoid, Roussimof defends himself against very polite querying on completion from his client. Boris muses on the past, pontificating on the sea life that once roamed the area they now stand in: “What would the dolphins say?” about the pressure Beckett is putting on him, the builder ponders.
Writer Neil Forsyth peppers ’Waiting for Andre’ with wonderful witticisms and aphorisms that land on both the heart and the funny bone. In the final of three relationships Beckett has, on the phone with his agent, we have the mirroring of his relationship with his builder. The agent, keen for more work from the playwright, also queries on completion, and his client doesn’t let him down when it comes to excuses: “The words are formed but choosing one to use first feels such a betrayal of the others.”
The highlight of this gorgeous and sumptuous half-hour is, without a doubt, the star of the piece, David Threlfall. Known for his role as Frank Gallagher in the original UK version Shameless, the actor unrecognizable as Samuel Beckett. His performance is as immersive as any you’ll see on the small screen, with such subtle touches and nuances not to mention an impressive accent. Threlfall is to be congratulated highly for such an accomplished, fascinating and empathetic portrayal. Upon watching, you will want a whole season of Threlfall’s Beckett.
’Waiting for Andre’ is gentle and amusing for the most part but also neatly touches on pain and doubt (the author’s time in the resistance during WWII and his reaction to negative reviews from London). Its intelligence and humanity are both endearing and amusing; a great shame Beckett himself didn’t get to enjoy this delightful slice of life.
Urban Myths 1×02 aired on Sky Arts on Jan 26, 2017