The Edinburgh Fringe is naturally saturated with one-person shows - they are cheaper to put on and the (mostly non-existent) profits do not have to be shared too widely. But it is a surprise in the midst of so many already on the fringe, from Miriam Margolyes and David Hayman to Les Dennis and Rodney Bewes, to also find the International Festival muscling in on the solo act. Especially when, as here, tickets for the 50-minute show stretch to £30.
Barry McGovern in Watt at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Photo: Jeff Clarke
Still, with veteran Irish actor Barry McGovern distilling the essence of Beckett’s mysterious novel Watt for the stage, the star wattage shines brightly. McGovern has performed in many Beckett plays, including Waiting for Godot, Endgame and Happy Days, at Dublin’s Gate Theatre, where he also developed a previous one-man Beckett show, I’ll Go On. This was subsequently seen around the world, including the Edinburgh Fringe in 1986 and Lincoln Center in 2008.
Now the actor, who knew Beckett personally, adds another to an expanding portfolio. Dressed in a formal black suit, with a white shirt but no tie, he recites the story of a man’s journey through the Dublin streets to the house of Mr Knott, for whom he becomes a manservant. Standing alone on a bare stage, apart from a solitary chair and hatstand, McGovern only has shifting pools of light to help him convey the changing geographical landscape. But his lilting soft Irish accent provides the music to Beckett’s own poetry of dislocation and mystery.