Krapp's Last Tape

Samuel Beckett
Rising Moon Productions
The King's Arms, Salford

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Krapp's Last Tape Credit: Craige Barker

Tackling a Beckett monologue on the fringe is ambitious. True, only minimal resources are required to stage Krapp's Last Tape, but the complexity of the subject matter is decidedly daunting.

Krapp (sole performer Colin Connor) is a creature of habit—he even consumes bananas in a ritualised manner. On his birthday, he habitually records his recollections of the year gone by on reel-to-reel tapes, listens to recordings of his previous diary entries and responds to and judges his younger self. As he reaches his 69th birthday, however, it is becoming hard for Krapp to pretend he has fulfilled his ambitions, or his life has merit.

Beckett’s script for Krapp's Last Tape has a mood of futility—the younger character on tape expresses contempt for his earlier attitudes but proclaims himself to be at the height of his powers while it is clear from the older person on stage any hopes were unfulfilled. Director David MacCreedy sets a tone which, while undeniably sombre, is less judgemental—more reflective and regretful with the character directing anger at himself rather than others.

Colin Connor is already on stage as the audience enters, gazing into the distance and lost in thought. An ambient soundtrack by Mark Simpson plays gently and the room is in shadow—the table lights in the theatre have been removed. Yet the mood is not dour, MacCreedy allowing the occasional laugh from Krapp's bizarre eating habits or lascivious pronunciation of the word ‘spool’. When the voice on tape refers to a memorable incident, it is clear from Connor’s blank face it has slipped his mind. There is even the oldest joke in the world: skidding on a banana skin.

Connor is too young to suggest Krapp's decline is due to age, so instead gives an indication of physical frailty self-inflicted by overindulgence. He has a substantial belly and regularly leaves the stage on tottering legs to take a drink in a noisy, greedy manner. Connor plays Krapp as two different people. On tape, his voice is eager, even boastful, wistfully recalling a love affair and triumphantly looking forward to the future as he regards himself ready for success.

In person on stage, Krapp is not only in decline but becoming aware it is his own fault. Initially, his response is childish: claiming he has nothing to record for posterity. When he begins to make a record, his diary is nasty and mean-spirited. Whereas his younger self recalled a tender love affair, in old age, Krapp admits to visiting prostitutes.

There is a tremendous anger to Colin Connor’s performance prompted less by the diminution of Krapp’s abilities than the recognition they were never that significant. His younger taped voice is lucid and lyrical, but onstage it is sometimes little more than an angry bark. At times infuriated by a growing sense of impotence, Connor can do nothing more than howl at his lost opportunities. Connor suggests someone who has finally run out of excuses and must face the fact his life is mediocre and his achievements scant.

This vivid staging of Krapp's Last Tape is a triumph for Rising Moon Productions.

Reviewer: David Cunningham