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Watt - EIF 2012

Royal Lyceum Theatre
4 stars

As with the work of William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction works best when taken off the page and heard out loud. Only then are they revealed as extravagant routines that become a form of deadpan existential stand-up which many Fringe comics could learn much from. There are few better exponents of this than actor Barry McGovern, who takes one of Beckett’s more cryptic novels and, in Tom Creed’s production for the Gate Theatre Dublin, transforms it into a fifty minute treatise on one man’s arrivals and departures. The man in question is the Watt of the title, who takes up residence on the ground floor of the home of the reclusive Mr Knott, whose man-servant Watt becomes. A simple enough yarn, one might think, but one which, in McGovern’s delivery, becomes something deadly.

With only a chair and a coat-rack one could easily mistake for a microphone stand onstage, McGovern enters slowly into the light, removes his over-coat to reveal a white shirt and tails, hangs up his hat, steps forward to size up the audience, and begins. Told in third person, Beckett and McGovern paint Watt as a stoically ridiculous figure, his insularity upended only by a pair of piano tuners or a casual amour with Mrs Gorman. Beyond this, nothing, or so it seems.

While one might argue that not attempting to dramatise the book’s more fantastical flights of fancy is a fudge, McGovern performs his selections with a deadpan felicitousness that can’t help but charm. McGovern is a master of his material, never forcing Beckett’s words or grasping for attention, but letting them speak for themselves in a comic aria to treasure.

The Herald, August 13th 2012



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