Watt at the Barbican Theatre
Gate Theatre Dublin are currently staging an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt, as part of the Dancing around Duchamp season at the Barbican Theatre, which celebrates Marcel Duchamp’s legacy.
Beckett is one of the leading figures of the Theatre of the Absurd, and Watt is a fitting tribute as it represents absurdity in many different guises. Firstly, it was written during World War II and is clearly influenced by the historical context in which its author lived, drawing inspiration from the absurdity of the conflict. The absurd is also mirrored in the irrational language that Beckett cleverly uses in all his productions to convey the idea of nonsense for which his work is renowned.
Watt takes its name from its main character. The story relates Watt’s journey to and from the house of a certain Mr. Knott, for whom he works as a servant, experiencing several incidents he struggles to deal with. Nothing explicitly tragic happens, yet everything is dramatic. It is sardonically narrated, and subtly funny, almost concealing Watt’s painful attempts to understand his environment.
Actor Barry McGovern has chosen a selection of texts from the story and interprets Watt in a sort of one-man show, aided only by basic set design. The reason for this is that language is the protagonist, and Watt doesn’t restrain himself, pouring a river of words to fill the bare silence that envelops him. He talks relentlessly, yet he can never seem to work things out because his surroundings are so profoundly incomprehensible. Through wittily devised puns and riddles, Watt tries to explain the awkward situations he faces. He is verbose but cares to be so in a humorous way, gaining the audience’s empathy and complicity through shared laughs, even though he is as weird as the circumstances in which he lives.
Watt is not an easy text to perform, but Barry McGovern (except for a couple of totally understandable and forgivable slips) does justice to the character he plays.
Photo: Anthony Wood (courtesy of Barbican)
Watt is at the Barbican Theatre until 16th March 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.