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Krapp's Last Tape (tour - Guildford, Mill Studio)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape is one of those strange theatrical gems that is rarely performed, and it’s easy to see why. Only 11 pages long and with barely 20 minutes of dialogue, the one-man play follows the unfortunately named Krapp on his 69th birthday making his annual memoir recording and listening to past years’ tapes. A poignant and complex play, the overall sadness that emanates from this play lingers long into the night and resonates with the audience.

As the audience are let in to the studio space they are greeted with the sight of an unconscious Krapp slumped over the desk. Rather than being awkward, this is an excellent introduction to the lonely world of this ageing firecracker. The play is full of subtle flashes of sadness which Fiona Baddeley’s production teases out. There are no stilted addresses to the audience, rather Baddeley’s direction has Tom Owen’s Krapp completely internalised and self-serving. It shows beautiful restraint and prevents the play from ever tipping over into self-indulgence.

Owen has a dynamic mix of bottled fury and pitiful sorrow. His frail physicality contradicts the bitterness at which he riles against his former self and despite his cranky nature, the audience empathise with the state he finds himself in. Krapp’s tape recorder acts as a second character, sending messages from the past which Owen reacts to. Owen’s voice is interchangeable and manages to bring out the extremely erotic undertones in parts of the play, whilst rattling the emotional cage he finds himself in.

Although not easy viewing, Krapp’s Last Tape is an impressive theatrical achievement and Owen gives a dynamite performance; few actors can yank the audience’s attention out of complacency and thrust it to a tape recorder without saying a word.


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