KRAPP’S LAST TAPE
by Samuel Beckett
Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row Parnell Square, Dublin 1 To 15 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Preview / Matinees / Mondays €25
Students Mon – Thurs €15 (subject to availibilty)
Flawed, but with a wonderful performance at its centre.
Apparently, productions in which Samuel Beckett was directly involved, tended to emphasize Krapp’s pitiable character; and this is the approach taken in Gate director Michael Colgan’s new production. But apart from the fact that anything so warm and cloying as pity is alien to every other Beckett character, indeed, to his whole oeuvre, is there really anything to pity in Krapp? The lugubrious, solitary failed writer isn’t hen-pecked, isn’t worried about his pension, he has his booze, his passion for bananas, and sexual services whenever he requires them.
I definitely prefer the harsher, thoroughly unpitiable Krapp I last saw at The Gate, courtesy of John Hurt, for the Beckett Centenary of 2006. Krapp sits at his desk replaying old diary recordings before celebrating ‘the awful occasion’ of his birthday with his latest cerebral non-exploits. Hurt was so harshly withering that the poetic moments contained in Krapp’s mundane recordings glittered with a poignant diamantine lustre. The same moments in Michael Gambon’s performance – the ‘crystallite-eyed’ nurse in the hospital, the girlfriend in the boat ‘with the slits of her eyes black’ – are unaccentuated and less brilliant.
But Gambon’s is neverthless a rivetting and affecting performance. The man’s hands alone, taperingly crablike as Nosferatu’s, speak trembling volumes as they wind and rewind those dusty tapes, or add silent ironic footnotes as they cautiously, histrionically, peel another banana. The voice on the tapes may not be that of the Krapp this reviewer favours, but the face certainly is.
Only minutes before curtain up Gambon was hob-nobbing with Lady Antonia Fraser and lesser glitterati in the Gate’s newly opened gallery wing, but the face under the single lamp was the droopingly bemused and haggard visage of the sixty-nine year old recluse who pitches headfirst into patches of sleep facedown on a rough wooden desk, and subsists on beer and bananas. It’s this face, like a slick of watery ash stuck with frazzled reeds of hair that, staring mutely into space in the closing moments conveys a compressed depth of human experience so beautifully. And just as arresting was Gambon’s face at curtain call. As though something had been too precipitously stripped away.
Krapp: Michael Gambon.
Director: Michael Colgan.
Lighting: James McConnell.
Assistant director: Louisa Carroll.
Hair & Make Up: Anne Dunne.