Krapp's Last Tape
10th - 14th March 2015
Wine, Women And Bananas
Samuel Beckett's 1958 one-hander was director Graeme Phillips' swansong
production at the Unity before he steps down at the end of the season.
Nick Birkenshaw stars as the challenged 69-year-old with a tape recorder,on
the ageing spools of which, his past life comes to life, to his chagrin
The stage is empty except for the dishevelled Krappe seated at a desk
in a room full of detritus. He stares blankly out at the audience an,
apart from the odd prolonged sigh, in the first couple of minutes nothing
He stumbles into life, retrieving a bunch of keys from the pocket of
a tatty lopsided cardigan, unlocks a desk drawer, rummages, locks it,
opens and locks another drawer and extracts a banana. Lovingly stroked,
it then hangs peeled in his mouth before he takes a reluctant bite. Without
a word he repeats the whole process, omitting only the banana biting bit.
This is the highlight of his day, until lumbering out of sight, he returns
with the tape recorder and boxes of old tapes.
He drools on the word 'spool' as he roots out Box 3 Spool 5. From here
the juxtaposition of real time angst and past reflection on his younger
self, thirty years previously, fills the next 45 minutes. Now the futility
of the present day dismisses any sentiment left for a past lost forever.
As the tape whirrs into life, recalling his 39th birthday, its 'voiceover'
even then is railing about his earlier youthful days: the first love of
his life that could never last; his infatuation with a nurse the day his
mother died; the mysterious companion on a boat by a lighthouse whom he
'covers' as it gently rocks.
Now, with no thanks, and 'past her sell by date', one last temptress
attempts to satisfy his waning sexual desires, but his tank is running
Not that this stops him drinking. Corks pop when he strays offstage in
between pausing the tape or rambling some new invective. Bad temperedly
discarding and silencing his past, Krappe's diatribe succumbs in him finally
fitting the blank tape of the title. Seated at his desk his voice starts,
stutters and comes to a standstill. As the blank spool runs on in silence,
the stage lights dim.
In the portent of what has gone before comes the sting in the tail. Although
he could not have foreseen the future in which the play is set the ennui
riven, constipated and psychologically traumatised world conjured by Beckett,
is finding a new impetus in the atomisation of today's longer living society,
and It could be coming to any of us too, sooner or later.
In front of a very reasonable attendance Birkenshaw produced a disconcerting
and thought-provoking performance in the difficult role. Sadly, the evening
finished earlier than scheduled as a short film by Beckett, starring Buster
Keaton, could not be shown for technical reasons. It did not, however,
detract from the occasion.