Skip to main content

Barry McGovern reads Samuel Beckett

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Irish actor Barry McGovern has long proved to be the master of
interpreting the twentieth century's most iconic writer, ever since he
appeared on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1986 in I'll Go On. This
solo adaptation of Beckett's trilogy of novels, Molloy, Malone Dies and
The Unnameable, was revived for the Edinburgh International Festival in
2013 following a rendition of Beckett's novella, Watt, the previous
year. So to hear McGovern read a seventy-five minute selection of
Beckett's prose and poetry as the culmination of Uncensored Life, a
weekend-long celebration of publisher John Calder, who first introduced
the world to Beckett, William Burroughs and many other literary giants,
is a thrill indeed.

McGovern stands with a folder full of photocopied texts, and begins
solemnly, only for Beckett's words to open out their meditations on
mortality to reveal a master comedian at work. With work dating back to
Beckett's early prose works, More Pricks Than Kicks and Murphy,
McGovern flits between tiny love poems to what are effectively a series
of comic routines that make up a form of existentialist vaudeville as
they chart the everyday minutiae that give life meaning.

There are brief excerpts from Watt and the trilogy too, with the latter
becoming a rolling torrent of words delivered by McGovern with an
understated richness in tone. The evening closes, as it must, with What
Is The Word, Beckett's final, ultra-minimalist poem, written when he
was eighty-three for theatre director Joseph Chaikin after Chaikin had
suffered a stroke that left him aphasic. With Calder himself in
attendance, McGovern gives a masterly rendition of a poem that honours
several icons at once.

The Herald, April 21st, 2014
ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …