Watt

Samuel Beckett

Gate Theatre, Dublin

Royal Lyceum Theatre

From 11 August 2012 to 14 August 2012

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

Barry McGovern has been perfecting this 50-minute solo, under the direction of Tom Creed, for years and it shows.

After its world première as part of the Beckett Pinter Mamet Festival at Dublin’s Gate in 2010, the monologue has extensively toured in the United States prior to its appearance in the Edinburgh International Festival.

The clarity of performance benefits from the fact that the selections from Beckett’s largely unintelligible novel were made by McGovern himself.

It is always something to see a small figure standing alone on the stage of a major theatre, dominating it with his or her insubstantiality and gripping an audience with little more than their voice and physical presence.

That is exactly what happens as McGovern recites and animates Beckett’s tone poem about a nobody who clowns around achieving little.

Watt is a book that draws from and illuminates so many of the writer’s other works, with particular reminders of Krapp, Godot and so much more. That includes Pinter, who was apparently inspired by the novel.

The text poetically follows Watt literally tramping through life doing nothing very much in the company of others who hardly do more. Somehow, it manages to amuse and entertain despite the lack of any real plot.

This owes much to an actor whose comic timing cannot be faulted and therefore persuades listeners that they understand what is being said and can work beneath the surface to divine the hidden meaning.

Reading between the lines of this review, one should conclude that this is typical Beckett beautifully delivered and therefore recommended to those who appreciate his unusual brand of drama.