Krapp’s Last Tape

1 10 2010

I am quite a fan of Samuel Beckett. In fact, of the absurd genre in general, but Beckett in particular. His way with words and loaded concepts is amazing, and the depth of emotion he is able to convey (albeit almost exclusively grief or loneliness) is quite remarkable.

I am also quite a fan of Michael Gambon. He is an incredibly captivating actor, with a wrinkled aged face, and sonorous ‘old man’ voice. Truly one of the greats of British Theatre.

So to see the two come together in a production of Krapp’s Last Tape at the Duchess Theatre, was a real treat.

Krapp is a 69 year old man, who has catalogued his life in a series of recordings. He wakes, he listens to one, and reflects on the man he was 30 years ago. It is a thoroughly depressing, morbid piece of theatre. 50 minutes long. 1 actor. A bare set; just an old desk and a single light.

Krapp’s Last Tape is a challenging piece to play and direct. The first twenty minutes or so were conducted in near silence, forcing the actor to make his every move count in order to keep the audience’s attention. Fortunately, Gambon is somewhat of an expert at this. Every move is conducted with such precision – from the raising of his little finger, to the twitch of his cheek. Even when he is just sitting, gazing into space, his resolve and posture is so believable and intense that you cannot look away. You just sit, transfixed.

This is not the first time I’ve seen Gambon play Beckett. I was fortunate enough to catch his production of Endgame a few years ago, and both performances exhibited the same level of commitment, intensity and ability to communicate vast worlds of meaning in a single gesture.

If you’ve never seen Beckett, I would recommend going to check this out. It’s by no means light or fun. But it is under an hour – which you’ll be able to endure. And it is a fine example of Beckett’s style. Shop around and you may well find some £10 tickets, which are very much worth it.

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2 responses

1 10 2010
newsong40

Interesting.
I have to say I found it distinctly underwhelming. Yes, the man’s a master at being on stage with nothing to do and not having to fill the silence or the stillness, but other than appreciating his skill, I didn’t feel much emotional impact from the piece at all.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t easily see past the head of the bloke in front of me, so never lost awareness of the audience, but the thing I’ve taken away with me is how ridiculously long it takes a theatre-full of people to settle down and be quiet. The curtain rose, the light came on, and Gambon, ‘sleeping’ with his head on the table sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

The rustling, clattering of ice cubes in plastic ‘wine glasses’, creaking of chairs, coughing, and general sounds of several hundred restless, uncaptivated people overwhelmed the sense of a compelling glimpse into Krapp’s life.

I went expecting to be wowed, but left unmoved.
Sorry Liam!

1 10 2010
Phil Brown

Gambon is great- but he’s absolutely ruined Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films to the extent I wonder if he or the writers have read the books properly. No warmness, unloveable, stern- he’s not the Headmaster we fell in love with in the book series. I’m sure he’s doing what he’s asked excellently, but he’s fallen way too short on these occasions.

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