Krapp’s Last Tape
Just turned 70, Michael Gambon is only a year older than the protagonist in Beckett’s seminal monologue. With his crumpled features he looks as though all the life has been drained out of him as he sits, slumped, at his desk before getting up to scrape his nail deliberately along its decorative edge, retrieve a banana or two from a drawer and add a moment or two of comic business to the glum proceedings .
Running at under an hour, with a long opening sequence carried out in virtual silence and periods spent listening to the birthday tapes he recorded thirty years previously, this reflection on the end of life needs an actor of Gambon’s stature to carry it off.
Shuffling around in a shabby waistcoat and dusty trousers, angrily sweeping the tin containers which hold the carefully catalogued spools marking the passage of the years, he delivers Beckett’s sparse dialogue with the world weary resignation of someone with nothing left to look forward to and the dreams of an unfulfilled writer to haunt him. His haggard features are every bit as expressive as that sonorous voice with its Irish tones.
It’s a masterly portrayal of hopeless decrepitude and it comes as something of a shock when the lights come back on and Gambon skips nimbly downstage to take an age-defying bow.