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Krapp's Last Tape

Churchill Theatre
Five stars

The creaks and strains of the Churchill Theatre's wonderfully traditional interior are all too appropriate an environment to house Samuel Beckett's portrait of the artist as an old man, in which his eponymous hero shuffles through his back pages to unearth a life lost. As played by Barry McGovern in long term collaborator Michael Colgan production for the pair's newly constituted Clare Street theatre company, it is a rare and exceptional masterclass in translating the human condition in all its tragi-comic glory.

Arguably the greatest living male performer of Beckett's work, McGovern slopes on, his white hair illuminated by the sole light above him and heightened even more by an otherwise black painted stage. Through the doorway can be glimpsed a brass bed where Krapp lays his head in a terminal state of aloneness. As he goes through his time-honoured set of rituals – a glass of water, a banana, a near fatal fall, another banana – its wordless routine is resurrected anew, even as Krapp becomes painfully aware of his own mortality.

Through McGovern's craggy features, which at times resemble the current dishevelled state of Mark E Smith, Krapp looks bemused at the way the memory plays tricks. There is the incomprehensibly scrawled notes, and the ridiculous and over-confident affectations of his younger self's voice, immortalised in all its ambitious cock-sure certainty. When he lashes out at the already battered metal boxes that contain his life's seemingly worthless works, he still can't resist another listen. Anything, it seems, is better than the endless empty repetitions of today in a meticulous rendition of a miniature masterpiece that rewinds on the empty aftermath of life on a loop.

The Herald, August 8th 2017

ends

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