Deathwatch Reviews

TIME OUT 25.4.85 Andrew Rissik

Genet's 'Deathwatch' is set in a prison cell in which three
prisoners compete with each other for their own brand of death-
fixated macho. It's difficult now to see just how Genet invited
the charge of pornography, although there is much that is
lingering and hypnotic in the morbid fecundity of his
imagination. But 'Deathwatch' is essentially a conceit, a
situation driven by an idea, and, at an hour and a half, it's
probably too long. Nigel Williams has given it a superbly
coloquial translation which has enormous vitality and impetus,
and the acting - from Vincenza Ricotta, Sean Bean, Jimmy
Chisholm and Gary Lilburn - is raw, economical and incisive.
Some of the argument in the play is mere shadow boxing, and some
of the dialogue has a Symbolist-inherited verbosity, but the
production is spare and compelling and, in the main, the tension
and vigour of the piece are admirably sustained.

OBSERVER 28.4.85 Ros Asquith

It seems fitting that the enfant terrible of European
literature, Jean Genet, should also write a prose-poem
translation of Death Watch (after a gap of 30 years) by Nigel
Williams and fitting, too, that it should be presented by
Foco/Novo, those champions of the outsider, who first brought to
light 'The Elephant Man'.

Two petty thieves vie for the favours of the murderer whose
cell they share, and a short, stark and stringent interpretation
by Director Roland Rees, and a terrific cast, leads these
limited parameters into an event that fluctuates between the
somnambulant and the electrifying.

CITY LIMITS 12.4.85 Nina-Anne Kaye

Genet maintains he wrote this first play as a draft, and
never wanted it performed again. However, Foco Novo have
revived this prose poem in an authorised sparkling translation
by Nigel Williams. Through poetry and colloquial speech it
rivetingly reflects Genet's inverted world, drawing us into the
hierarchy of crime. Sharing a prison cell, two small-time
criminals admire and vie for the favours of the murderer Eyetie,
in a state of grace in Genet's terms, who disarmingly
contemplates his probable execution. Sean Bean's jealous
Lederer taunts the resigned victim Mackie (Jimmy Chisholm) while
the caged savage Eyetie (Vincento Ricotta) paces the
claustrophobic stage. They convincingly enact their venomous
ritual in a play formerly regarded as a flawed work. Nigel
Williams however succeeds in making it a still shocking, mordant
piece of theatre, moulded by Roland Ree's direction and Andrea
Montag's design which powerfully convey the menace and sexual
tension locked within the cell. Do not miss this revival.

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