Beckett Triple Bill, Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1 to 8 February 2020. 4****. William Russell.

Beckett Triple Bill
Krapp’s Last Tape, Eh Joe & The Old Tune.
By Samuel Beckett
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6SJ to 8 February 2020.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Tues & Sat Sat 3.30pm
Runs 2 hr 20 mins Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2835
Review: William Russell 17 January.

Four fine actors under Trevor Nunn’s direction turn this fascinating triple bill of minor Beckett plays into an evening of theatrical gold. The plays are not masterpieces in themselves but taken together this is an evening of old men looking back at life, regretting, complaining, not quite remembering how it was, and sometimes getting it hopelessly wrong, but still railing against the fact that darkness looks any day now and still alive. Krapp’s Last Tape has James Hayes as the embittered old man playing his tapes, eating bananas, searching through the drawers of his desk, and relishing the word spool as he loads yet another memoir that may or may not be the truth. It is a stunning evocation of old age, of a man who knows his past and has no wish to relive it. In Eh Joe , which was written for television, Niall Buggy sits on his bed, a crumpled mess of linens and pillows, saying nothing while he hears a woman complaining, tormenting him, laughing at him. She is voiced by Lisa Dwan on stunning form, temptress, judge and jury in one. Joe is being photographed and his image is projected on the wall behind the bed, starting with the whole man and slowly closing in until only his face is there, with a tear trickling down. Buggy makes silence riveting. In the third play he plays an old organ grinder joined on a park bench by another old man played by David Threlfall, spectacularly bearded and with a failing memory, railing against those who look after him and sharing unreliable memories with Buggy. They were once in the army together, have lived in the same small town, but are not close friends, just old friends. It was written for radio but works beautifully on stage and is the perfect end to the bill.
All three plays are cruelly funny, and sad. Nobody is going into that goodnight happily and no consolation for the cruelties of lives not all well lived is offered. All three have their very own ghosts as past Beckett players like Patrick Magee and Jack MacGowran had made them their own, but the success of the evening is that in other hands they work just as well, proof that other voices can perform them just as musicians can with music. As for Nunn, it would seem age – he has now turned 80 – can neither wither nor diminish him.

Krapp: James Hayes.
Joe: Nial Buggy.
The Voice: Lisa Dwan.
Gorman: Niall Buggy.
Cream: David Threlfall.

Director: Trevor Nunn.
Designer: Louie Whitemore.
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim,
Lighting Designer: David Howe.
Video Technician: Simon Nicholas.
Costume Supervisor: Claire Nicholas.
Associate Director: Cat Robey.

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