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Krapp’s Last Tape (Susan Elkin Reviews)

Show: Krapp’s Last Tape

Society: Tower Theatre Company

Venue: Tower Theatre

Credits: Samuel Beckett


Performance Date: 25/01/2022

Krapp’s Last Tape

4 stars


Image: John Chapman (Rehearsal photo by David Sprecher).

The key thing with Beckett is timing and making silence speak. And John Chapman who shuffles, sighs, grunts and yawns very evocatively is master of both.

Krapp’s Last Tape is a solo one act play featuring an old man reflecting on his past sexual encounters. He has an ongoing taped autobiography including spool 5 in box 3 which he recorded 30 years ago. As well as listening to that, he is now trying – but mostly failing – to record his final one.

It was a treat in the performance I saw  – as Chapman worked through the opening long silent section including the famous banana sequence – to hear the audience listening intently even when no words were being spoken. There was real theatrical chemistry in the room.

Stout, dishevelled, laughing, wheezing, weeping and getting drunker, Chapman is both compelling and moving. He and his director Robert Pennant Jones are clearly a strong and sensitive team because we really feel Krapp’s regrets alongside his wistful longing and anger at his younger self. He also made me notice afresh the poetic glory and spareness of Beckett’s prose: “a bony old ghost of a whore” for example.

The attention to detail is impressive too. Chapman as Krapp sits at a desk behind an ancient, battered Grundig-type reel to reel tape recorder. At one point he rethreads it. When he hits the switch the reels are actually rotating. Then there’s his off-stage drinking. We hear corks drawn and liquid being poured into a glass (sound design by Laurence Tuerk) and each time Krapp returns his face is slightly more flushed.

Krapp’s Last Tape, which runs less than an hour, was written in 1958 and first performed as a double bill with Endgame. And it’s in this pairing that I’ve seen it presented in the past. After the interval Tower Theatre chose, instead, to offer a talk by  Robert Pennant Jones about The Tower Theatre’s Beckett productions during the last 60 years followed by a film entitled Stones which is an extract from Beckett’s 1955 novel, Molloy. A truly Beckettian evening.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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