A wonderfully apt vehicle for the adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt, the Melbourne International Arts Festival will present this one man tour de force starting early next month at the Arts Centre, Melbourne.

Written as a novel while Beckett waited in the south of France for the Second World War to end, Watt has been recast for the stage in a one-man production of lyrical elegance and heart-stirring immediacy. It’s a tour de force performance by Irish actor Barry McGovern, the foremost interpreter of Beckett’s work in theatre today.

Please read on as Irish Theatre and Opera Director; Festival Director and Curator, Tom Creed, discusses all things Watt and more.

 I first worked with Barry McGovern on Watt in 2010 for a production at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Barry and I had worked on a number of productions previously, and for a young director it was a hugely significant opportunity to work on a new one man show with one of the world’s leading Beckett interpreters. Coming back to Watt eight years later, I’m again struck by the singularity of Beckett’s writing, his deep sense of the obsessions that drive human nature, and his ability to move effortlessly between strange mystery and hilarious comedy. With the passage of time, I’ve found the piece resonating with the contemporary world more and more – the character of Watt resembles many displaced people in the world today, arriving in unfamiliar places and trying to make a life and work in precarious conditions. Beckett knew what it was to be on the run, having hidden from the Nazis in the south of France during the Second World War, and the way he drew on this experience in the creation of Watt makes it even more timely and moving.

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 I work with a range of themes across my work in theatre and opera – when I’m working on older material in particular, I’m eager to crash these works into the present and explore them in the context of contemporary life. Most great historical works were originally experienced as contemporary for the audiences of the time, and so I feel the most faithful way to convey the author’s intentions is to present the work in the most contemporary way possible.

 Watt is a rare chance for audiences to experience one of Ireland’s greatest actors and one of the world’s leading interpreters of Beckett’s work. Barry presents Watt in all its strangeness, with bizarre characters, endless lists and seemingly random digressions, but at the same time it’s hilarious and strangely moving. I’m particularly proud to be presenting it at the present moment, where so many people find themselves displaced and alienated as Watt is, and to try to understand the contemporary situation through the lens of something written almost a century ago.

 Melbourne International Arts Festival has a long history of presenting Beckett’s work in legendary productions from Ireland, and indeed Barry McGovern has previously performed Beckett’s great plays Waiting for Godot and Endgame as well as his first one-man show I’ll Go On at the festival. We’re really proud to be in the company of so many great artists in the 2018 Festival programme, and eager to give people a change to reacquaint them with Barry and Beckett, or to discover them for the first time.


October 4 – 13