Skip to main content

Krapp's Last Tape

Churchill Theatre
Five stars

The creaks and strains of the Churchill Theatre's wonderfully traditional interior are all too appropriate an environment to house Samuel Beckett's portrait of the artist as an old man, in which his eponymous hero shuffles through his back pages to unearth a life lost. As played by Barry McGovern in long term collaborator Michael Colgan production for the pair's newly constituted Clare Street theatre company, it is a rare and exceptional masterclass in translating the human condition in all its tragi-comic glory.

Arguably the greatest living male performer of Beckett's work, McGovern slopes on, his white hair illuminated by the sole light above him and heightened even more by an otherwise black painted stage. Through the doorway can be glimpsed a brass bed where Krapp lays his head in a terminal state of aloneness. As he goes through his time-honoured set of rituals – a glass of water, a banana, a near fatal fall, another banana – its wordless routine is resurrected anew, even as Krapp becomes painfully aware of his own mortality.

Through McGovern's craggy features, which at times resemble the current dishevelled state of Mark E Smith, Krapp looks bemused at the way the memory plays tricks. There is the incomprehensibly scrawled notes, and the ridiculous and over-confident affectations of his younger self's voice, immortalised in all its ambitious cock-sure certainty. When he lashes out at the already battered metal boxes that contain his life's seemingly worthless works, he still can't resist another listen. Anything, it seems, is better than the endless empty repetitions of today in a meticulous rendition of a miniature masterpiece that rewinds on the empty aftermath of life on a loop.

The Herald, August 8th 2017



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …