Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape came to Lakeside Arts on Wednesday 15th February. Kenneth Alan Taylor starred in this one-man play as Krapp, an old man listening back to a tape he made in his youth and prime. As he reaches the end of his life, Krapp gradually begins to realise that he has wasted it. He records his last tape in a final reflection. Impact’s Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews.
The stand-out feature of the show, for me, was Kenneth Alan Taylor himself. He gave an absolutely outstanding performance, hyperbolic, but at the same time believable. Slumped body language, excessive grunting, a creaking voice, and devastatingly painful facial expressions, made me both love and hate Krapp, both want to comfort him, and tell him to stop complaining. Furthermore, the way in which Krapp reacted to the recordings was memorable, caressing the cassette when his lover was mentioned, painstakingly bending closer when he couldn’t believe or understand what was being said.
The authentically dilapidated props […] really added to the sense of isolation and emptiness
Krapp’s Last Tape is one of those plays which strikes the balance between comedy and tragedy. Little touches such as the craving for bananas that Krapp has apparently had his entire life, and him subsequently slipping on banana skin, resulted in audible chuckles. Krapp’s comical attempt at working out the meaning of the fancy words his younger self uses, was immediately contrasted with deep, mournful gazes into the audience as he started to reminisce.
The simple set consisted of an old desk and chair, and this, along with the authentically dilapidated props that were bought onto the stage later in the play, really added to the sense of isolation and emptiness that clouded around Krapp throughout.
the lights fading out played a trick on the audiences’ eyes, it appeared that Krapp was becoming a skeletal ghost
Contrasting this was the alternative set behind a transparent film at the back of the stage, where Krapp kept his water bottle and glasses. In my opinion, this really added nothing to the storyline; we could plainly see Krapp’s repetitive behaviour and forgetfulness without having two minutes of him drinking water added on after every scene.
Despite the slight malfunction at the start of the night, the technical aspects of the production were commendable. The sound at the start combined a somewhat comforting tone with an eerie counter-melody, before reaching to a noise that can only be described as something between a train approaching a platform, and a scream.
Lighting also played a key role in adding to the unsettling nature of the story. Particularly at the end of the production, the way in which the lights fading out played a trick on the audiences’ eyes, so that it almost appeared that Krapp was becoming a skeletal ghost. Which ties in sadly with what was implied: he passes away, totally unsatisfied with his life.
Unfortunately, my main issue with this production was the plot itself and the pace. Frankly, the opening scene dragged on for many minutes longer than it should have done, and the repetitive playing of the same sections of the tapes left me zoning out. This is probably more a criticism of Beckett’s writing/stage directions, but it was as painful as the rest of the play, for all the wrong reasons.
He did an incredible job with a somewhat mundane script and storyline
This play really could have done with being longer and more developed. When the lights went up, I was left thinking, ‘Is that it?’ I would have liked to have heard more of the tapes, and for them to have been more natural. Much of what Krapp’s younger self had to say was almost unbelievably pretentious; it didn’t sound like a recording, more like he was reading from a novel or a poetry anthology. Even if that was the point, I really couldn’t understand what he was saying half the time.
Overall, I was quite disappointed with this play, as I thought there would be greater revelations and more significant character development. However, I would like to thank Kenneth Alan Taylor for his memorable performance; he did an incredible job with a somewhat mundane script and storyline.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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