Brilliant Beckett: ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’

Poster for 'Krapp's Last Tape'.
A man is seen sitting on a couch with no pants on.

Krapp’s Last Tape is a one man show written by the legendary playwright Samuel Beckett and is being performed by Jim Garrard at the Baby Grand Theatre in Kingston. It’s a story about isolation, regret, and accepting one’s fate. Audiences follow Krapp, a 69 year old man as he listens to an audio recording of his 39 year old self. 

Krapp is an elderly man who appears to be on his last legs. His messy, disorganised demeanour displays a man that has given up on himself and on life in general. The audience sees him  listen to his younger self talk about love and his life, reacting with mostly distaste. As the play comes to a draw Krapp opps to create a final tape addressing his life. In it, he accepts the life he has lived even if he might be unsatisfied with it.

Garrard gives a phenomenal performance as Krapp. It’s obvious he is a seasoned actor and it is the single best performance by an actor I have seen throughout the many Fringe shows I’ve watched. When onstage, he commands an audience’s attention and does so with ease. There are moments in the play where Krapp is just sitting down and listening to his audio recording. This could be somewhat of a boring experience for the audience as they are just listening along with him. Garrard, however, was still able to keep me entertained due to great, subtle facial expressions and reactions to what was being spoken about. He also has amazing control over his voice and the emotions he is able to portray makes his angry and emotional segments impact more profoundly.

I also loved how Krapp’s 39 year old tape touched on his even younger self. While listening to the tape, the recorded voice talks about himself in his twenties jokingly. This mirrors how Krapp is reacting to his 39 year old tape in the present and can make one wonder about also ending up like this, always being unsatisfied with one’s younger self.

I appreciated how this story was somewhat relatable for even me, a man in my early 20s. I do often look back at my younger self with distaste and question why I did or thought certain things. It can make one think about growing up and how much people change given situations life puts in front of them. With all of this being said, the play would definitely be much more relatable for a person with more lived experiences in life than myself. 

The play in itself is known as one of Beckett’s best and for good reason. It is brilliantly written with complex, intriguing, and thought provoking themes of loneliness, isolation, and the acceptance of one’s fate. Like many of Beckett’s plays, it’s not eccentric or overly dramatised. It is presented fairly simply. The set consists of a desk with an audio recorder, a drawer, and a shelf with boxes of audio cassettes. For people coming to the theatre to see a happy, eye-catching show this may not be the most appealing. But for seasoned theatre-goers who enjoy Beckett and thought provoking plays that will leave you thinking about its message for days after, then this is it.

Generally, an audience tends to ask questions or assume things throughout a performance because they do not receive much internal monologue. In many one person performances, the performer is usually speaking directly to the audience in an internal monologue type-of-way. In this performance an internal monologue is heard through the tape, but that is not the same man on the stage. An audience only gets his reactions and merely towards the end receives a bit of an internal monologue as he makes his last tape. Due to this, I did enjoy trying to figure out motivations behind certain actions Krapp did without explanation. Such as, when he kept going backstage and pouring himself a drink of some liquid. Is he an alcoholic? In his tape he talks about trying to quit drinking. There are also questions that help to relieve tension in this fairly heavy show such as, why does he keep eating bananas? 

Krapp’s Last Tape is a thought provoking one man play which will leave you asking yourself some tough questions about life. It is brilliantly acted by Jim Garrard and is a must see for seasoned theatre-goers. 

‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ is being performed two more times at the Baby Grand Theatre in the Kingston Fringe Festival as part of the 2023 Kick and Push Festival.