Review: Krapp’s Last Tape At Leeds Playhouse

Saturday 10th October 2020 at Leeds Playhouse (Bramall Rock Void)

Before Jonathan Larson was penning musings about 525,600 minutes to measure a year, Samuel Beckett had the supremely underwhelmed Krapp facing the exact same existential crisis, just from much further down the line of life experience… In this co-production from Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, Krapp’s Last Tape receives a brilliant outing – short but significant and melancholy and comical by turns, Beckett’s one act play is an intriguing study of retrospect and regret.

Niall Buggy’s impressive stage presence immediately fills the intimate space of the Bramall Rock Void and wins his audience over with an oddly charismatic combination of shuffling and mumbling and bumbling. Krapp’s baggy clothes offer the unmistakeable marker of a soul who is no longer bothering. His recurring lost expression and hesitant movements give way to sudden bursts of purpose and sharp focus. His eccentricities and explosive outbursts alert us to his vulnerability while inducing entertained smirks. Early, subtle comedy charms us on side and keeps us there as this unfulfilled man in his latter years reflects on the memories and missed opportunities of his life.

Direction from Dominic Hill positions Krapp’s presence, both past and present, to dominate the space and utilises the close proximity of audience and character to enforce a sense of close connection. So we listen and watch this lone man, sitting in a bare space under a sharp low light, listening to tape recordings of his younger self from a collection of tapes made annually.

Krapp is constantly shifting between laughter and relish or dismissal and dismay – his younger self is both an entertainment and an irritation to him and the recordings seem to harbour forgotten details which inflict new pain. It’s a powerful piece and it’s incredibly impressive to see how Buggy’s performance grips for the duration, particularly as the first section is taken up entirely with reactions to pre-recorded commentary. Action is naturally minimal but the scope of the piece is vast as we are encouraged to reflect on life’s journey in a universal sense as much as we are invited to engage with the specifics of Krapp’s personal history.

An intriguing work perfectly brought to life by a sensitive and compelling central performance – most definitely worth the trip.

Krapp’s Last Tape plays Leeds Playhouse (Bramall Rock Void) until October 17th 2020 and you can find tickets here.

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