I thought you had to be really hard core to read Beckett, even more so to go to one of his plays. Discussion about him always appeared a bit pretentious to me. He was too intellectual by half and in truth I was a little frightened of him, avoided engaging with his work, thought I wasn’t up to it.
Last night “Watt” was performed at the Fringe. My son had a spare ticket and I went with him to the Royal Lyceum where the Gate theatre had brought over their production from Dublin.
It is one man, on stage, talking, as he says himself, about nothing. He explains how nothing happens to or in the life of Watt who travels by train to a house where he lodges. Watt never appears. He does not work. He does not think or read or laugh or cry, get angry or sad, hungry he is not, drink he does not imbibe, the only function ascribed to him by the man on the stage, is cutting vegetables. There is nothing else on stage except a chair and the man.
Perhaps I was right to have avoided Beckett. But the words of the man! The words of the man! The words of the man on the stage. It was as if Joyce had re-arranged his words so that you could understand them, first time. A stream of consciousness that was unshakeably about nothing, not pretending, not aspiring but describing mundane life in dazzling words. Was this Beckett showing off, writing such an astonishing piece about, well nothing? If it was, if it is, then I am converted and off to Waterstones to buy the book.
The performance was perfect. The man on the stage, Barry McGovern from the Gate in Dublin, found the perfect tone to talk of nothing, caught the humour of it for it is in fact very funny, never lost the pathos of it, for it very bleak; there were no theatrical flourishes for he let the words and only the words embellish the performance. The stage was black, his clothes were black, the chair was black, there was a spot light. It was, words, black and white and brilliant.
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