Krapp’s Last Tape

On Wednesday night, I saw Krapp’s Last Tape at the Gate. It was a strange show because it was so short (only an hour long) and Beckett is just a bit odd in general. I’m never sure if I like Beckett. I’m not really a fan of post-modernism but sometimes his language is so evocative and beautiful that it makes me think I get it. I don’t find him an easy playwright to love.

Krapp’s Last Tape is about a man, called Krapp, who records his thoughts (nice, old-fashioned spools of tape) every year on his birthday. He also really likes bananas. The play is set on the night of his 79th (ish) birthday. He listens to a tape from his 39th birthday, which also seems to be a birthday tradition – listening to the ramblings of his younger self, and then insulting them – and then makes his new tape. And that’s the play.

It’s full of interesting ideas – the tradition of recording your thoughts on your birthday, the idea that your younger self as someone to be despised, the endless making of resolutions that are never followed through on (something I’m definitely guilty of) – but it’s also about this one man, who loves bananas but seems to have lost everything else he loved.

Beckett asks a lot from his actors. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the actor is Michael Gambon and more than up for the challenge. His performance was superb. His Krapp was grumpy and fed up of life but there were still comedic moments. And moments of heartbreak. He was so old and feeble you couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. (My mum was relieved when Michael Gambon bounded enthusiastically onstage for his bow at the end. She had been worried about him.)

It was a nice little play but to me, it felt too short. I would have liked to hear more from Krapp. I wanted to know more about him and what had happened in his long life to bring him to this point in time.

I enjoyed the play but I did think it was a little over-priced for such a short show. We went on the Wednesday when tickets were “only” €25. Tickets for Friday and Saturday night shows are €35. The cost is my main problem with shows at the Gate but I have others! It’s probably my least favourite theatre in Dublin. For some reason, whenever I go there, at some point throughout the performance I will become very aware that I’m in a theatre, watching people pretend. I have no idea why but it just doesn’t seem to be able to sustain the theatrical magic for me.

For me, Krapp’s Last Tape was a nice little play, but not a must-see by a long shot.

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