Monday, 21 April 2014

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

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