Nothing or rather ‘no thing’ is at the heart of Samuel Beckett’s novella Watt, adapted for the stage by Barry McGovern. “For the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something, just as the only way one can speak of God is to speak of him as though he were a man, which to be sure he was, in a sense, for a time, and as the only way one can speak of man, even our anthropologists have realised that, is to speak of him as though he were a termite.”

So begins McGovern’s delightful performance of Watt, first presented in Australia at the 2013 Perth Festival and now staged as part of this year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival. The Irish actor, who has been performing Beckett on stage since the 1980s, is one of the definitive interpreters of his work, so who better to present the strange yet intriguing, tragic-comic piece?

Barry McGovern in Watt. Photograph © Pia Johnson

Beckett wrote most of Watt while in the French countryside, having had to flee Paris to escape the Gestapo because of his work with the French...