Recognised as the world’s leading living Samuel Beckett interpreter, Barry Mcgovern brings his take on the playwright’s one man piece, Krapp’s Last Tape, to the International Festival.
The premise of the play is simple: Krapp sits before a tape recorder and listens back on the recordings he’s made of himself each year on his birthday before recording what is to be his final tape. With no presence to bounce off of other than ones own voice, the actor playing Krapp must either suffer in the solidity of the stage or revel in it.
Mcgovern needs no buffering co-performer. Having laid his hand to many of Beckett’s distinctive characters, he has ease in the language where others might stutter. The tone of his voice – whether heard ‘live’ or through the pre-recorded tapes of his younger self – often reveals more meaning than the dialogue itself. The 39 year old Krapp we hear through the speakers is cocksure and clear, while the 69 year old Krapp onstage speaks with a gruff tiredness.
The action – save for a few sad clown routines with a banana skin and the odd trip behind the stage when bottles are heard clinking – and set is left to a minimum, with Krapp remaining sat directly in the centre of a darkened stage. Instead, the action and meaning is contained within McGovern’s face, listening, responding, re-listening and responding to his earlier self with a sense of resigned paternal exasperation.
Although perhaps an overly traditional retelling of Krapp’s Last Tape, rather than a particularly inventive adaptation, McGovern’s telling expressions encapsulate Krapp’s resignation with a subtle soulfulness that carries the whole piece. Plus, at only 50-odd minutes, this makes for an approachable foray into absurdist theatre.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Krapp’s Last Tape, Churchill Theatre, Aug 4-27 (not 10-13, 16, 22), 8pm