Krapp stands frozen staring into the distance, barely living in the present, heading to an unknown future and transfixed on the past. It’s chilly and the rain is coming down on what feels like a bleak and desolate house. There’s a ticking that speeds up then stops abruptly. The lights change, he shuffles towards the table, fumbles for his keys, opens the narrow draw, rummages around amongst the papers and finds a banana. He studies it, peels it, discards the skin on the floor, eats it and regrets it. Bananas always upset his stomach but it’s never stopped him eating them. His table is cluttered with boxes of old tapes all catalogued in the accompanying ledger and after a long silent introduction he pokes around to find box three, spool five. We are as amused at the way he plays with the word ‘spool’, several times stretching out its long vowels. He carefully places the spool on the tape recorder and the story unwinds.
You are not likely to see a more sensitive interpretation of Krapp’s Last Tape for a long time.
The attention to detail in this opening is evidenced throughout Chris Begg’s mesmeric monologue, just as Beckett demands. The tapes enable three ages of Krapp to emerge. He recorded them when he was thirty-nine and was recalling his twenties. Now sixty-nine he can look back on both and record some more. Although he clearly seems to know some of the recordings well, his memory of events is failing and with an air of incredulity he often seems surprised to hear what he said all those years ago. It is not all lost, however, for he clearly recalls the emotion of an early love as he embraces the tape recorder and delicately caresses its side. Then he dismisses much of his past as stupidity, pops into the next room from where the chink of the bottle on the side of the glass can be heard, and takes several swigs. The routine is repeated several times during this lyrical, poetic and pensive piece in which the pauses, exhalations and a myriad minute moves say as much as the words.
Begg creates a wild-looking figure. His clothes might almost be smart, if his trousers weren’t so baggy and his waistcoat not smeared with banana from wiping his hands on it. From a weathered face masked by an ungroomed grey-white beard and a mop of hair that falls into a pony tail behind him, his eyes shine out and sparkle, even though they are failing. He is three generations in one.
For lovers of Beckett and students of performance, this is a masterclass, and everyone else should join them for a truly rewarding and uplifting experience. You are not likely to see a more sensitive interpretation of Krapp’s Last Tape for a long time.