Deathwatch, Jean Genet's earliest, shortest and most formally straightforward play, was first performed in Paris in 1949. It retains an intense power and makes an excellent introduction to his later dramas - The Maids, The Balcony, The Blacks, The Screens. The French text of Deathwatch, published by Gallimard, was extensively altered by Genet during rehearsal; and Bernard Frechtman's translation is of the final 'performance' version, which supersedes the original published text.
Three convicts share a cramped prison cell. There is no question as to which of them is the dominant dog in the pack: Green Eyes (Yeux-Verts) has brutally murdered a woman and is to be executed. Lefranc and the younger novice-like Maurice are inside for less grave crimes. But both of them covet Green Eyes' attention, baiting each other in the process, a duel that drives inexorably toward violence.