A marvellously vulgar performance of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape was performed upstairs at The Lectern last night, by the absolutely faultless Aidan Stephenson.
The play opened with an old man lying slumped in his chair, lights down and in silence. When the audience were settled he began to animate and opened not with a first line but a rather loud bout of flatulence.
This decrepit character, aptly named Krapp, continued to make strange bodily noises, coughing and spluttering his way around the stage, as he tried to find whatever it was he was looking for, which rather strangely turned out to be a banana in a filing cabinet.
Pacing around the stage with a heavy gait and his torso spilling out over the top of his trousers, it was clear that this character had seen much better days. The setting was purposely sparse, but what was there was as worn out as the man himself, his large leather chair that had peeled off most of its cover and old typewriter that looked as though it hadn’t been used in years. It was quite strange to be presented with such a character and setting and became clear early on that this piece was not for those in search of a little light-hearted entertainment.
Exiting the stage briefly to swig more alcohol, Krapp reappeared with a handful of old tin boxes containing what we were led to assume were the recorded memoirs of his sordid life. These tapes were no more revealing about his character than his presence on stage, as they recounted his apparently mediocre existence that travelled through one failed relationship after the next, the only real difference being the positively pompous way the younger Krapp described his behaviour.
There was a certain sadness, however, within this character as he tried to record his current state but was only able to revert back to past memoires, as if nothing were to become of the man he is now. The re-listening of the tapes seemed to give Krapp no comfort, as he only took pleasure in repeating certain words such as “spool”, being impressed with its onomatopoeia, like a child who has just learnt a new word. It was clear that this act of re-listening and remembering was of no self-gratification for this man.
There was nothing endearing about the 69-year old Krapp. He was an old man drinking himself toward the end of his life; yet, he was so well portrayed by the actor that he was impossible to take your eyes off, and I found myself wanting to follow him until the end with great attention, even if that end should be a nasty one.