Samuel Beckett is one of the quirkiest playwrights of his, or any other, time. Although he was Irish he wrote his early plays in French and one of his works featured the leading actress buried up to her waist throughout the performance. Even he would be surprised at the way this performance panned out.
Krapp’s Last Tape is a one-man play in which a dying Krapp locates an old tape, one of which he has made on each of his past birthdays to sum up the year. He then begins to record the one which will inevitably be his swan song.
The play starts with Krapp taking out a key which opens a drawer in his desk – along with a chair and a pendant light the only pieces of set – from which he produces a banana. There follows a piece of business which suggests a certain innate impishness an impression reinforced by the demeanour, facial expressions and physique of actor Niall Buggy.
After finishing the piece of fruit, and repeating the process for another, he disappears into the room behind the stage to retrieve the aforementioned tape which is stored in one of the many biscuit tins he reappears with.
The desired tape is located, Tin 3, Spool 5, after reference to a ledger, and put on the player. The contents of the recording elicit a series of reactions from Krapp, from fond recollection to anger which causes him to sweep the biscuit tins off the desk and onto the floor.
The main thrust of the tape is that of his finding himself but every time the voice seems to be about to reveal the secret of his epiphany he fast forwards to the next part. There is a series of references to the ladies in his life at the time which again cause mood swings. Eventually he replaces the tape with a fresh one and completes the monologue.
I was fortunate enough to see the West End production of this play starring Sir Michael Gambon and I must say that Mr Buggy’s performance ranks right up there with that one. The Gambon interpretation was much darker and I can see Niall Buggy’s Krapp being more of a ladies man when younger. Either way, this is one of the more accessible of Beckett’s plays and a wonderful choice to be in the series which kicks off the Playhouse’s post-lockdown offerings.
The play is an intimate piece and benefitted immensely by being staged in the small space which is the Bramall Rock Void.
In the first paragraph I alluded to the performance being quirky, which it was, but in an unintentional way. Towards the end of the monologue there was an ingress of water caused by the torrential rain outside. It caused an indoor shower which, fortunately, did not occur above either an audience member or Mr Buggy, but did make a rather loud noise. Being the professional he is, our intrepid actor continued without breaking step and, after a couple of minutes, the torrent ceased.
Although ostensibly minimalist there is quite a squad behind it, all of whom I will list here as they combined to make a wonderful production.
Director, Dominic Hill; Assistant Director, Dermot Daly; Casting Director, Kay Magson CDG; Company Stage Manager, Steve Cressy; Stage Manager on the book, Julie Issott; Sound, Rob Landells; Lighting and Stage, George Bryant; Props, Craig Patullo and Wardrobe, Victoria Marzetti.
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Feature photograph Niall Buggy by Anthony Robling