8/16/2017 0 Comments
Samuel Beckett’s play of a mystified 69-year-old Krapp, enigmatically performed by legendary Irish actor Barry McGovern, raises questions of aging, memory and recollection, as Krapp reflects with some frustration on the tapes of his 39-year-old self. Krapp's Last Tape is a short one-man play about those conversations we have with ourselves, the internal dialogue. Except Krapp has recorded his thoughts each year of his birthday in an annual ritual. This means his internal dialogue is externalized by the taped record.
Beckett had had his play All That Fall broadcast by the BBC in 1957 and he arranged to hear the recording in full at a Paris studio; his first encounter with the technology. Such was his fascination he undertook to see how such technology could be used in drama. Krapps Last Tape was the outcome, and when first staged in the following year we are referred to it being set in the future, as the technology was not commercially available. Today we assume the play is set in the present, or perhaps even the past, and can only marvel at the retro quality of the technology.
This is a powerfully subtle new production directed by Michael Colgan, a longtime Artistic Director of Dublin’s Gate Theatre, bringing together two experienced and fine interpreters of Beckett’s work in McGovern and Colgan. The actor has been performing Beckett’s stage works for more than three decades, while Colgan was Artistic Director at the Gate for over 30 years. McGovern is visually and verbally impressive, someone we can join in silent dialogue with as he takes us through his own trajectory of bewilderment and bemusement.
Krapp’s internal dialogue with his younger self is with a man who has some confidence, who has a desire for a more engrossing sex life, but also recalls a farewell to love for one woman. He berates himself for being the “young fool he took himself for” and forsaking a life’s love for literary ambitions. He reflects also on his 39-year-old-self explaining his mother’s death after a long viduity, a meaning that sends him to his dictionary in search for the meaning of the word, finding out it is a quality, state, or period of being a widow.
Yet, do we really want to revisit earlier times? In our social media age we are perhaps forever recorded. This Krapp's Last Tape is a genius of work both by the playwright and McGovern the actor, but what would Beckett make of our current obsession with recording, narrating and curating our lives in public electronic format? The technology gives us a special time dimension to this play, not just the distance between the ages of this man, but the time he has to reflect on his inner self. Harder to do in the 24/7 communication environment of social media.
At the end Krapp disappears into the darkness, leaving us to reflect. When we look at world events and the impact of social media on these events, we might want to reflect on the technology that allows it and the lack of reflection and attention to words that fuels our vacuous social dialogue. If only such reflection could be translated into more thoughtful politics, we might have less darkness.