Beckett's Krapp is one of those characters every actor puts his own
stamp on, frequently an unconsciously self-revealing one.
decade or so ago
John Hurt made the old man charming and funny, more recently Harold
Pinter defined him by icy bitterness. And now Michal Gambon, in a
Michael Colgan-directed production imported from Dublin's Gate Theatre,
presents one of the most tragic Krapps I've ever seen.
reminder: an old
man who has tape-recorded a birthday message to himself every year
listens to one from three decades back, tries to record a new one, and
discovers he has nothing to say.
What almost every actor finds in Krapp is a contempt for his younger self - ironically, the 39-year-old he listens to speaks with contempt of an earlier recording he had been listening to - and a resentment of the memories and feelings the old tapes stir up. The decision for the actor is how to have the character react to those feelings.
Gambon does full
justice to the wry humour written into the role, with the fumbling with
props, the pure slapstick with a couple of bananas and the momentary
distraction of a fascination with the word 'spool'. But the core of his
interpretation is the man's unconscious yearning for the emotions and
the living experiences he tries to convince himself he is happy to have
way the old man reacts to his middle-aged self describing a sex-tinged
romantic interlude. He sneers at it, preferring to report in his new
recording of the occasional emotionless visits of an ageing slut. But
he does replay that particular episode three times, Gambon's face
showing the yearning and envy his words and actions try to deny.
the end of the
play, as the voice on the tape says of those romantic moments 'I
wouldn't want them back', we see the silent old man fully aware that
they will never return, and stunned by the extent of his own pain.
Beckett's plays are ultimately about the indestructibility of the human
spirit and how the emptiest of universes cannot keep mankind from
living and feeling. Krapp's Last Tape shows us a man who tries and
fails to suppress his own humanity, and Michael Gambon makes that a
deeply moving thing to witness.
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- Krapp's Last Tape - Duchess 2010