Taking four years to complete the writings which would become Watt, this adaption of Samuel Beckett’s piece is in stark contrast to such stretching time; it is instead condensed into a single performance of just one hour in length, and it’s solid stuff. It, of course, focuses in on central character, a man of this work’s name sake, as he enters the house of Mr Knott. It’s a quizzical work, sharp in detail, and of a kind of warmth, which emanates only from characters evoked by history’s great writers.
The arduous nature of Beckett’s original work has and continues to prove a laborious task for readers, but from within such difficult terrain richness of language is often lost on more contemporary writers, and most certainly a dying interest in the modern world. But here, in this work, these moments of literary brilliance are given a chance of air and shine, in a world of post-performance and conceptual art. Such a pure experience of theatre is a joy.
Perhaps, it was just an off night, but this particular performance did seem to suffer from some dull edges, it lacked a little energy, performer Barry McGovern did on occasion, stumble on a line or two, which is frustrating, because this work rests on the laurels of ‘simple done well’, and in such a spare experience, even the smallest of mishaps comes up a doozy. The lighting design and sparse moments of sound are adequate, though still feel a little loose; both could be tightened further.
Perhaps comment can be made on this work’s relevance, its programing in this year’s festival program, a choice clearly pitched at a particular blue-rinse demographic. See, in a premier arts festival, space is there for more boundary pushing work, work with meaning and potency. At best, Watt is perhaps only something which we can use, as a reflection or a counterpoint to the more progressive works in this year program. In life, as it is with theatre, we first must understand from where we it is we came to articulate where it is we are going.