Hard to Believe I Was Ever That Young Whelp!

Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

Before I saw Moving Still’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape I made some notes on my 250 hour phone voice recorder.  I wondered what Krapp would make of such technology that would allow him to record every moment of his life. Would he be a blogger? Would Krapp tweet?
Though first produced in 1958 the play has much to do with our modern preoccupation with the meaningless. Krapp (Fergus Cronin) is an aging loner who listens to and records his daily journal using a reel to reel tape up in his attic. (Sound familiar?) The play opens on the night of his birthday with the patter of Krapp moving in tight steps across the stage to an overflowing table of tapes lit by a single fixture above. He fumbles about with keys eventually finding a banana in a locked drawer, eating it with strange delight eliciting laughter from the audience. After finding his tape, the main conflict begins; the random, dispersing, hopeful thoughts of his earlier 39 year old self versus the eventuality – that current self, an old decrepit man of 69. The man alive in front of us disparages the long gone thirty nine year old who in turn disparages the young man of twenty something before him like a lampooning mirror. “Hard to believe I was ever that young whelp. The voice! Jesus! And the aspirations! And the resolutions!”.

Samuel Beckett

Mr. Cronin, intelligently directed by Art O’Briain returns to Galway capturing the essence of Krapp gracefully in this flawless, sold-out production with a character that is at once woefully sad and yet quite alive and funny. This is the skill which Mr. Cronin brings to the forty-five minute piece lighting the character of Krapp from the inside with warmth and humour. He plays Krapp somewhat out to the audience while creating a cell-like atmosphere which draws us in to his world and holds us there.   His every movement is captivating. His grey, wiry hair, long lines of age across his face like slashes, his messy waistcoat and a certain rotundness slowing his movements across the stage belies the unexpected lyrical anthem of hope Mr. Cronin exudes despite the futility of all that has preceded the current moment; “Unshatterable association until my dissolution of storm and night with the light, the understanding, the fire, my face in her breasts and my hand on her.” Krapp relives this moment over and over, recalling the time  he lay in ecstasy and regret with a woman all those years ago. It’s the reliving that Krapp likes most, the desire to “Be again”. But he discovers he has nothing more to say and it is at that moment he decides that this is his last tape he will make. He listens again to the recall of ecstasy and the haunting image of Krapp freezes in front of us as the tape reels out to silence and the single light on his face recedes to darkness. It is that darkness that we all fear, as Beckett once commented “Death is standing behind him and unconsciously he’s looking for it.”  Krapp’s futile journaling of his life mocks the modern obsession with blogging, twittering and self-documentary. For this alone it should be seen.  It is profound, eloquent and is emotionally pungent. It does not suffer from the verbal Olympics required in some of Beckett’s other works – so bring the kids!
What would Krapp do with our technology, the miniaturized devices that would allow him to record every moment? I don’t think he would care much, not for my phone or any of the rest of the gadgets out there.  He would arrive at the same conclusion about recording the awful minutiae, the happy moments, the nothing;  “Leave it at that” he would say and toss my Nokia into the Corrib.

Rating:  5 stars

Bank of Ireland Theatre
NUI, Galway

Ticket Price: E20-E22
Ticket Information: Galway Theatre Festival  http://www.galwayartsfestival.com

Monday July 13th to Saturday 25th July  2009 6PM

Krapp’s Last Tape
Produced by Moving Still
Directed by Art O’Briain
Cast Fergus Cronin


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