Watt | Gate TheatreBarry McGovern is a delight in his one man interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s Watt, in Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. For 50 minutes the opening night audience were carried along listening to McGovern’s lilting Irish accent, laughing, pausing, laughing, pondering, and laughing again.

“For the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something, just as the only way one can speak of God is to speak of him as though he were a man, which to be sure he was, in a sense, for a time, and as the only way one can speak of man, even our anthropologists have realized that, is to speak of him as though he were a termite.”

So opens this production of Watt. McGovern has skilfully distilled the full text of Watt into a sharp and humorous monologue. It recounts the story of itinerant character Watt, who catches a train to serve the mysterious Mr Knott, and Watt’s struggle to make sense of his world. It is absurd theatre, and at times almost irrelevant (and irreverent). At the same time, it’s also not. It’s a beautifully “melodic” piece, full of peaks and troughs of text, about trying to get on in life.

Beckett wrote Watt, his second novel, during the Second World War although it wasn’t published until 1953. The text is magnificent and pure Beckett; incredibly detailed, creating a visual tapestry that just screams out to be performed. Repetition is used to notable effect throughout not only the full text repeatedly (sorry), but this extraordinary performance by McGovern.

Such was the nature of McGovern’s’ storytelling, that I felt we were in a cosy and dim lit Irish pub as the rain came drifting down outside. We were listening to a master storyteller weaving larger than life words in larger than life stories to make this character of Watt, with all his idiosyncrasies, come to life. Even when the text veered off into ramblings about things of “little importance” (which was quite often), it was fascinating. All that was missing was the Guinness and a soulful Irish lament.

Simple yet effective lighting by James McConnell, sound by Denis Clohessy, and costume by Joan O’Clery complemented rather than overshadowed McGovern. Directed by Tom Creed, McGovern kept his movements to a minimum, letting the powerful words make the movements and speak volumes.

Watt is sold out, which is unfortunate to those who haven’t got tickets – the show is a brilliant piece of theatre. Sign up for the waiting list, and cross your fingers – if you can get to see Watt, do.

Gate Theatre presents
by Samuel Beckett

Director Tom Creed

Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 13 – 17 Feb 2013
Tickets: $59 – $25
Bookings: www.perthfestival.com.au

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