Krapp’s Last Tape
Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen
Enniskillen’s Ardhowen Theatre sits among the reeds and limpid green waters of Upper Lough Erne, a tranquil, pastel-shaded world, which left a lasting impression on Samuel Beckett during his three years as a boarder at Portora Royal school.
The tender love scene, which is the touchstone of this play, was inspired by that bewitching landscape and contains one of Beckett’s most lyrical passages. In these surroundings, it is intensely moving to listen to a young man recalling “the upper lake with the punt” and a beautiful woman lying on its deck in the sunshine. So powerful is the memory that the elderly Krapp is reduced to tears as he plays and replays his own voice, reliving that brief moment of happiness.
Its soft focus presents a stark contrast with the sharp-edged, clinical environment occupied by Robert Wilson’s idiosyncratic Krapp. His meticulously ordered study contains a bank of metal shelving, a long table lit with desk lamps, neat piles of boxes and files, and a single tape recorder on which he spools backwards and forwards through a life of unfulfilled promise and thwarted ambition.
And in similar comparison to previous dishevelled incarnations, this Krapp is a dapper, slightly grotesque figure, white-faced, wild-haired, his red-rimmed eyes, gaping mouth and scarlet socks the only dashes of colour in a glossy, monochrome production, here receiving its Irish and UK premiere.
Wilson is famous for his dramatic use of noise and silence. For the first 25 minutes, while a deafening thunderstorm rages and stunning lighting creates the effect of torrential rain, he speaks not a word while delivering a masterclass in minutely detailed movement and expression.
Some may judge the cinematic presentation and stylised central performance to be at a remove from the original. Few would dare to take such liberties. Fewer still could pull it off with such aplomb.