Samuel Beckett’s Watt at the Barbican

Or Barbican? It’s like Tate Modern (or Tate) vs The Tate (Modern). It’s probably grammatically correct to abandon the definite article but it sounds pompous. So I’ll stick with The Barbican, as I stick with The Tate: I’m going to The Tate. What, you’re going to Tate? No – I’m going to The Tate.

And I could continue, in a Beckettian-style over-analysation of what is, really, the least important aspect of the title of the post, but I won’t – because what is of more importance is the fact that I went to see a very good stage adaptation of Beckett’s novel Watt (on Saturday, at The Barbican).


Barry McGovern, of Gate Theatre Dublin (‘The’ Gate Theatre….?) plays Watt, the central character who walks from a train station to the house of Mr Knott – for whom he will be working as a house servant – finding himself continuously preoccupied by seemingly mundane happenings.

image by Jeff Clarke
(image by Jeff Clarke)

McGovern’s telling of this simple, absurd story – narrated by a funny, self-doubting, un-trusting Watt, was brilliant. As usual, with Beckett’s plays, the set was basic and the only props were a coat stand and one chair.

We were sat on on the front row, right in the middle – so close that I could see white spit gather at the corners of McGovern’s lips, as his mouth became dry after 30 minutes of non-stop speaking (interestingly, it disappeared soon after and didn’t return – trick of the trade?)

Beckett’s astute observations, insertion of scatological references and sophisticated use of language make his work comical and absorbing. Both this performance, and the last I went to see (Fragments, at the Young Vic) have actually made me ‘lol’.

But the success is also down to McGovern’s super acting skills, thoughtful adaptation and perfect story-telling Irish accent.

I give it 5 stars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *