Krapp’s Last Tape was the last production I saw as part of the International Beckett Season at the Barbican. The play is about an old man who has, for years, been making recordings each year of his life, summing up the months gone by. Each year he listens to previous tapes: we see him, as a 69 year old, listen to a tape of him as a 39 year old, who refers to his younger self disparagingly, much as the elderly Krapp now views the middle-aged Krapp. The premise is poignant, and the play makes use of typically Beckettian themes like loneliness and loss.
I don’t have any previous productions to compare this one to, but I gather that it is very different from usual. Robert Wilson is an American actor who plays up the avant-garde and this production is staged in a stark basement room, with Wilson, white-faced like a clown, reacting to the tapes in an over the top and cartoonish manner, as if to emphasise the horror of old age.
Beginning with a long silence, during which Wilson moves around the stage, moving boxes of tape, and rain patters onto his windows, the production is certainly an unusual one, and I found that the abstract approach made it hard for me to warm to the character. Perhaps this was the intention? It was certainly different, and memorable, but I think I would rather see a more traditional production before I make my mind up about this play.