Laughter at your own risk. Heinrich Heine once wrote, “Sleep is lovely, death is better still, not to have been born is of course the miracle. So there’s to you, that tiresome crowd who have always pinched their mouths at Samuel Beckett for celebrating the nausea of existence. Most people feel it, certainly all poets do- Heine’s lines are a paraphrase of Sophocles- and it has nothing to do with despair, which is the related charge leveled against Beckett. The hero of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, has been trapped in a cage for thirty years….
With Krapp, though, the adventure compared to his novel trilogy-Malloy, Malone and The Unnamable, is different. These others, as good as dead to begin with, live off the transfusions of their art. Krapp, on the contrary, suffers art to cut him down in his prime and then lives on to see himself as a mirror of snapshots receding through the years. If science has its martyrs, so does art- men and women withered by the invisible burning rays. Krapp, is one of these.
Krapp’s Last Tape is the outrageous title of an outrageous play. Imagine! A feeble, nearly blind and deaf, solitary and half-drunk old man, crouching in a squalid room, subsisting on bananas and playing to himself, commenting the while, old tape recordings of his own voice-recordings, moreover, that consist in no small part of comments on still earlier tapes. Is this theater? Well, yes, it is; outrageous, of course, but very much theater. Being outrageous in the theater was nothing new for Beckett.
There was that matter of Godot who never showed up, and of the animated Endgame, three of whose four characters were immobilized, and two of those in ash cans. Another play, among Beckett’s many, is Act Without Words I, which takes place in a featureless desert and involves the pantomime of a man beset by objects- a tree, a pair of scissors, a carafe of water, a knotted rope, etc., all lowered from the flies, and by a commanding whistle that emanates from various points off stage. It reads as though it plays like man’s fate, caught beneath a burning glass.
These capers of Beckett were a function of his virtuosity. He played in the theater as a hawk plays in the air currents, with the exuberance of being at home. Beckett carried a stage within his head. When he wrote a scene, he knew how it would materialize, how long it would take, where its center of gravity would lie, and what impact it would make.
This something outside, in addition to, the dialogue- it is the kinetic sense of the theater. O,Neill, it could be imagined, was like that. It seems everyone who stages Krapp, when they begin to move the old man around the stage, finds that Beckett already had the whole piece moving in the script. Every pause, every repetition, every agonized progress from A to B had been timed with that enigmatic metronome which sets a play’s pace. This sort of thing:
…Krapp remains a moment motionless, heaves a great sigh, looks at his watch, fumbles in his pockets, takes out an evelope, puts it back, fumbles, takes out a small bunch of keys, raises it to his eyes, chooses a key, gets up and moves to front of table. He stoops, unlocks first drawer, peers into it, feels about inside it, takes out a reel of tape, peers at it, puts it back, locks drawer, unlocks second drawer peers into it, feels about inside it, takes out a large banana, peers at it, locks drawer, puts keys back in his pocket. He turns, advances to edge of stage, halts, strokes banana, peels it, drops skin at his feet, puts end of banana in his mouth and remains motionless, staring vacuously before him. Finally he bites off the end, turns aside and begins pacing to and fro at edge of stage, in the light, i.e. not more than four or five paces either way, meditatively eating banana. He treads on skin, slips, nearly falls, recovers himself, stoops and peers at skin and finally pushes it, still stooping, with his foot over the edge of the stage into pit. He resumes his pacing, finishes banana, returns to table, sits down, remains a moment motionless, heaves a great sigh, takes keys from his pockets,…
The instructions are so detailed, it is like working with a musical score, and they simply have to materialize what is given. In Krapp’s Last Tape, there is only the recording machine for foil, and it makes the problem of keeping the acting alive, performance after performance, more difficult, since the drama never varies by a hair or decibel. A typical problem is the actor playing the role is vigorous and relatively young, while Krapp, a phenomenon of decrepitude, “the sour curd and the iron stool”, is sixty-nine. The strain of maintaining the gap of years is often considerable, and with tctor having no one to react against, tends to lop off the years into healthy middle age.
(see link at end)…Krapp, I believe, can be considered a diarist, although he adheres to the practice of making only one entry each year, as the central event of his joyless birthday celebrations—which makes him rather an annalist of extremely narrow scope: his own life, which revolves mostly around his impermanent, but “engrossing” sexual relationships with certain women. His parents and their deaths are a part of it as well, his work as a writer and its lack of success, and his struggle for “laxation,” always undone by his appetite for bananas. The rest is occupied by drinking, “More than 20%, say 40% of his waking life.” We learn all this from his 39-year-old voice, as recorded on the tape, although we see the 69-year-old Krapp’s somewhat curtailed consumption of bananas and hear his perhaps less restrained indulgence in alcohol on stage.
He refers to his recordings as “P.M.’s” (“Post Mortems”) or as a “retrospect”—exercises occasioned on a perspective rather more turned to the distant past than the past twenty-four to seventy-two hours…Read More:http://newyorkarts.net/2011/12/28/john-hurt-krapps-tape-dublin-gate-theatre-bam/#.UATPbPVb76M