Krapp’s Last Tape

Samuel Beckett’s one-man play hauntingly evokes how time and age makes us strange to ourselves. Aidan Stephenson’s one-off performance captured this achingly well, shading between slapstick and quiet tragedy.

The Lectern’s small stage was the perfect setting for Beckett’s unflinching exploration of personal loss. Under the harsh light of an uncovered bulb, Stephenson sat as the aptly named Krapp – an old Irish man – in a disintegrating leather armchair, listening to tape recordings of his life.

Belching and farting, Stephenson gave us a man collapsing at the seams, moving painfully to collect teetering boxes of tapes while swigging a drink on the way. His snarl of contempt as Krapp’s younger self talks of being in love was delivered like a slap.

As Krapp obsessively replays snatches of his life, the brutal poetry of Beckett’s writing takes on a fragmentary intensity. Like memories we can’t leave alone, phrases loop and repeat. And each pause and abrupt break as he struggles to record a new tape echoes with the sound of something ending.

Whether standing with a banana in his mouth or quizzically repeating the word “spool”, Stephenson showed us how easily the familiar becomes strange. Slipping on a banana skin can be no less absurd than falling in love.

Our younger self is sometimes a friend, often a stranger and frequently an enemy, reminding us of our failures and past foolishness. This superb production gave eloquent voice to all three.

Stephenson’s mesmerising performance as Krapp deserves to be seen again as part of a longer run, in Brighton and beyond.

First published by The Argus