KRAPP’S LAST TAPE
by Samuel Beckett.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8D To 21 June 2015.
Runs No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden.
Script lost within swathes of production.
Last time Samuel Beckett’s monologue for old man and tape-recorder played at the Barbican, John Hurt’s mesmerising performance lasted 65 minutes. Other performance come in at an hour or slightly less. So the time taken by Robert Wilson constitutes a lengthened load of Krapp.
Here’s everything Beckett is unlikely to have liked. For a start it takes ages to begin as white-faced, clownish Krapp sits at his desk dead still, before making stylised looks in various directions and making a meal of gathering his banana. Loud, shocking outbursts signify a thunderstorm, followed by scene-effect rain ‘pouring’ across the set.
Amid this, Wilson’s Krapp sits like a clown-king of the castle, important, alone and surrounded by a huge space with shelves and manuscripts: a rich person with an empty life.
Who, though, is he? Cavorting around, seated in something like lonely splendour, the soul of Krapp, and of Krapp, is missing – that close-up nagging of memory and regret where only sex ever provided some kind of momentary joy, now a sorrow for being gone.
Missing from beneath the white-face make-up is the story told by Krapp’s changes in expression – the struggle to remember, the urgent need to recapitulate, emotion recalled by taped words.
Beckett was scrupulous about words and the silence between them; he was also insistent on sticking to the script, and nothing but the script. Perhaps it’s good the plays are being tested anew; the author could introduce new elements in his own work, like the tall and short casting of Vladimir and Estragon in his 1975 Schiller Theatre production of Waiting for Godot. And he apparently revised his early plays whenever he worked on new productions in the theatre.
The problem here is to see how Wilson’s production develops, rather than merely uses, Beckett’s play. All roads the production opens up seem to lead to the staging not the script, which has little say in the matter and about which little is said. Attention, instead, goes to such details as the bright red socks Wilson sports, his robotic moves and the self-congratulatory prancing steps of his curtain-call.
Krapp: Robert Wilson.
Director/Designer/Lighting: Robert Wilson.
Lighting: A J Weissbard.
Sound: Peter Cerone, Jesse Ash.
Make-up: Claudia Bastia.
Associate director: Sue Jane Stoker.
Assistant director: Charles Chemin.