KRAPPS LAST TAPE
by Samuel Beckett.
Duchess Theatre Catherine Street WC2B 6LA To 20 November 2010.
Tue-Fri 7pm & 8.15pm Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4659.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 September.
A magnificent Krapp at the Duchess.
This Krapp looks as if he’s collapsed, head and shoulders loose on a desk like an abandoned glove-puppet. The head rises only when an arm’s looped around to support it. The barely-surviving creature then reaches helplessly towards the light suspended over his desk. But the shock comes when the ruined features, the hopeless expression, come into view. This is a hopelessness that seems to deny the concept of hope.
With nothing for the future, what is there but the past? Picking up a ledger so huge it’s like a lid for his coffin, Michael Gambon’s Krapp is a writer who has nothing to read except this catalogue of reel-to-reel tapes on which he’s recorded his life.
Approaching threescore-and-ten years, he listens to the Krapp of thirty years earlier. There too was disillusion, the start of a sense the best was passing, if not passed. At that point, just passed the midst of life, only one thing gave a sense of meaning: an experience of love, desire or sexual happiness.
Outside that momentary completeness lay nothing. Yet the experience was something. The younger taped voice and its wider vocabulary (today’s Krapp has to lookup “viduity”) reflect back on the darker present. Nothing’s happened except decline over the intervening decades. And now this Krapp forgoes the script’s clownish banana-skin routine for a two-banana munch, where life’s reduced to eating or the sexual triviality of the fruit’s phallic potential.
Michael Colgan’s production, from Dublin’s Gate Theatre, on a stage so basic no designer’s credited, shows everything’s an effort – there’s more clownishness in this: every action has to be decided upon here-and-now, with no sense of purpose or planning. Yet even the clown-like moments (Gambon amusedly popping his head in and out of the light) show how life has shrunk for a figure who himself seems shrunk two sizes. There’s desolation and waste in both the damaged features and clothes.
Gambon’s interpretation reaches its height – or depth – in its final moments, as he gives both tape and world – such as it is – a look composed of puzzlement, disgust and disbelief: an amalgam of despair.
Krapp: Michael Gambon.
Director: Michael Cogan.
Lighting: James McConnell.
Assistant director: Louisa Carroll.