Saturday 10th October 2020 at Leeds Playhouse (Courtyard Theatre).
Leeds Playhouse and Opera North’s collaboration series Connecting Voices is bringing audiences back into the fold of live theatre in actual theatre spaces. The series includes some reflective works on the main productions, offering audiences excerpts of music and words which engage with central messages and themes.
The source work for this piece, Krapp’s Last Tape, is a monologue which looks at existential musings from a soul in his latter years. Reflections on Krapp’s Last Tape is therefore billed as exploratory work uniting actor, musician and Opera North chorus members which can be enjoyed either alongside the original piece or independently. I found myself in the latter category there; not yet familiar with Beckett’s influential source work and not yet having seen the production playing down in the Bramall Rock Void.
So this was a bit of an experience in unknown territory. Audiences are seated on stage in the Courtyard space for a start. As such, we see the space from a new angle and there’s an overwhelming sense of what’s been lost over the last six months beyond our own enjoyment as audiences. There’s something very emotional about looking out at those empty seats, with low lights drawing focus to the balconies which are, of course, also displaying empty seats where chattering audiences should be. Talk about searching for meaning…
So. Matthew Eberhardt directs, moving focus smoothly between performers and their excerpts, helped along by the subtle steering of Tigger Johnson’s muted, lingering lighting. In the hush of a Courtyard Theatre filled only to a small fraction of its usual capacity, Alasdair Roberts begins to sing, and the atmosphere shifts towards something incredibly still. His voice is pure and sincere and the lyrics meaningful. Four members of the Opera North chorus (Ivan Sharpe, Tom Smith, Paul Gibson, Richard Mosley Evans) appear and lift the whole experience towards something quite reverent and enveloping – and very, very moving.
Following those smoothly transitioned musical segments, Robert Pickavance rises from his seat to deliver A Piece of Monologue, something altogether pining and raging and flailing and falling and wholly vehement. Pickavance is a perfect choice of course, bringing gravity to the words as he has done with his various roles at the Playhouse. And with his last words lingering, the vocalists again take up the mantle and close the piece with A Lyke Wake Dirge – and if anyone in the audience was as yet unaffected, that closing sequence must surely have conquered.
So yes, Reflections is an experience of layers, bringing a tear to the eye and a stillness to the anxieties of life in the grip of 2020 uncertainty. Perhaps above all though, it’s genuinely fascinating to see how a work can become the inspiration for combinations of other work across mediums. Definitely a unique experience this one.
This was the last of the Reflections on Krapp’s Last Tape but you can catch other Reflections – namely the Reflections on Dead and Awake which plays 16-17 October – tickets here. You can also find tickets for Krapp’s Last Tape here.