A KIND OF ALASKA & KRAPP’S LAST TAPE
by Harold Pinter by Samuel Beckett.
Bristol Old Vic (Studio) To 12 May 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat & 8 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 5 May 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussions 2, 9 May.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0117 987 7877.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 April.
Go, meet with things dying, and with things new-born.
Many links could be found between these two one-act plays; including that A Kind of Alaska’s author acted Krapp’s Last Tape as his valedictory performance.
Without its context, Harold Pinter’s Alaska could be another of the sinister struggles of assertion his early work explored. But it’s taken from a case-history in Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings, about a woman awakened by a new drug from the suspended animation of a 29-year long sleeping sickness. Teenage Deborah awakes from unconsciousness to find herself a middle-aged woman. Or rather, not to find herself. Her mind has to explore as tentatively as her body when she tries to move from her bed.
Pinter’s scalpel-precision of language cuts to the core of her predicament. Both Richard Bremmer as the doctor who married into the family and Deborah’s sister (Caroline Backhouse) are played with expert restraint. But it’s the waking woman herself who is crucial.
Marion Bailey catches her many inflections. The girl’s mind that does not realise she has a woman’s body, the schooled obedience of the early 20th-century middle-class girl, the pleasant familiarity of remembered details of life, the puzzlement and uncertainties, with the curtailing of questions when matters become too complex or potentially scaring to ask about.
Deborah’s past has a 29 year gap; Samuel Beckett’s 69-year old writer Krapp looks back 30 years, attempting to grasp a sense of his younger self, failing to recapture a point to life. Bremmer, tall, eyes deadly piercing, face wrinkled like the author’s in his later years, has less difference than often in the strength of voice between the 69-year old Krapp and his thirty years ago self on tape.
His tall, thin figure has a Beckett-like asceticism rather than being an, albeit angry, poetic dreamer. It’s a fascinating interpretation, fitting neatly with his handling of the bananas at the start. The skins aren’t things to slip on but to be thrown over the shoulder into a bin. It’s a simple pleasure and achievement, getting that right. The simplest things and the profoundest co-exist, for Krapp near the end of life, as for Deborah, being perplexedly reborn.
A Kind of Alaska
Pauline: Carolyn Backhouse.
Deborah: Marion Bailey.
Hornby: Richard Bremmer.
Krapp’s Last Tape
Krapp: Richard Bremmer.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Charles Balfour.
Sound: Dan Jones.
Assistant director: Rosy Banham.