Krapp 39

Michael Laurence’s dense, complex and lyrically-beautiful script reworks Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape in an exploration of expectation, ageing and memory.

Dense, complex and lyrically-beautiful script

The original play presents a 69-year-old Krapp listening to the autobiographical tapes he made in years gone by - starting with the one he recorded on his 39th birthday. In this reworking, a 39-year-old Laurence reads aloud his own diary entries from the last decade and in doing so exposes and analyses the psychological intersections between himself and the character Krapp. Surrounded by an array of cameras and computers, Laurence replaces Krapp’s battered old tape recorder with modern equivalents, giving the theme of self-analysis an explicit relevance by situating it within the social-media age.

Though the show does a good job of remaining accessible to audience members who haven’t seen Krapp’s Last Tape, the intricate entwining of Beckettian references that saturate the script and performance means that audience members who are familiar with Beckett’s work will get the most out of this play.

Krapp 39 is endlessly self-reflexive, in terms of visuals, language and content. The script is at first a little too meandering, allowing its cleverness to get ahead of the actual development of character and message. However, the humour that permeates the show together with Laurence’s deadpan wit restores a warmth that enables the character’s narcissism to become endearing. Laurence’s list of ‘things I don’t know how to do but wish I did’ is tragicomically pathetic but also poignantly relatable.

As the show goes on and the years are covered in diary entries, Laurence’s character becomes less guarded, developing an intimacy with the audience that opens into a moving vulnerability. Simultaneously craving the opportunity of playing Krapp onstage and desperately fearing becoming him in real life, we see Laurence’s internal struggle as he frets about what he was at 19 and what he will be at 69.

Unlike his literary forebear, Laurence ends his play with a surge of hope. If Laurence returns to the Fringe in 30 years to review these musings, we shall find out whether or not this was intended ironically. 

Reviews by Iona Gaskell

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The Blurb

NY Fringe winner and off-Broadway hit! One of the highest critic star rated show of the New York season (ranked by Critic-O-Meter) receives its Edinburgh premiere. A hilarious and heartbreaking window into one man's final moments of youth, inspired by Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape. Written and performed by Drama Desk nominee Michael Laurence. Here I end this reel. ***** (New York Times). Critics’ Pick (Time Out, New Yorker). 'Something of the great Tim Crouch about it' **** (Time Out, New York). 'A beautifully revealed work. Tremendously poignant.' (New York Times). 'A thing of startling, wounding beauty' (