It is a toss-up. There is just as much enjoyment in watching Krapp’s Last Tape as there is in researching what it is about.
Opening Seven Tyrants Theatre’s first full season in its new space above The Penthouse Nightclub in downtown Vancouver, Krapp’s Last Tape is a melancholy-infused memory play, performed with near perfection by Linden Banks.
In this surprisingly quick 60-minutes, 79-year old Krapp does what he has done each year on his birthday, record an account of his life over the past year into a large reel-to-reel tape deck. He also finds and listens to the recording he made 30 years prior.
Much of Krapp’s current recording, and that of three decades ago, are a cryptic and a wholly fragmented account of his life. On the surface it can be a somewhat frustrating experience for an audience not familiar with the work. Dig a little deeper with some pre- or post-show research though, and the dense literary and auto-biographical references are as fascinating as watching Banks’ portrayal of this lonely man on stage.
As prescribed in Beckett’s detailed script, Banks not only must physically transform into Beckett’s precise description, but also follow Beckett’s equally comprehensive directions.
But while Beckett prescribes, it is up to the actor to bring it to life on stage, and Banks delivers. This is no easy feat for a show that relies as much on a tape recording as it does in-the-moment. Banks isn’t afraid to lean into Beckett’s many moments of silence and stillness but is equally effective in those moments where he reacts to his younger self on tape, in his portrayal of an aging physical being, and in recording his most recent year.
It is in the play’s final moments though where Beckett finds the most emotional resonance as he listens to the final passage in his 30-year old tape: “Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”
Seven Tyrants Theatre takes a gamble in presenting Krapp’s Last Tape, but for those audiences willing to go on this journey, supplemented by a little online research, the pay-off is worth it.
Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett. Directed by David Thomas Newham. A Seven Tyrants Theatre production. On stage at the Tyrant Studios (1019 Seymour St, Vancouver) until October 26. Visit tyrantstudios.com for tickets and information.