Years before I did Krapp's Last Tape I'd seen Patrick Magee and Jack MacGowran do it – both of the bishops of the church of Beckett. Magee was very growly, sweaty, kind of pained; MacGowran couldn't help but give it a clownish quality because that's what his wonderful face did.
I first played Krapp under the auspices of the Gate theatre at the Barbican's Beckett festival in 1999. A year after the Barbican, we ran for several weeks at the Ambassadors in the West End. It's a long time to do a piece like that – particularly 10 performances a week. It's not a long play but it's an intense one. I wasn't entirely happy with the play then. Doing that number of performances a week is rather too many to get what they call "in the zone" – you can find yourself doing it more technically than you would like.
It was much better by the time I did it last, in Dublin, in 2013. Michael Colgan had taken over the direction by then. I cut the anger out of it a lot. I've never felt that anger is a very powerful emotion. I don't like it when people shout on stage without any particular reason. It carries no weight. You need to find another way.
I'd never done any Beckett before Krapp and I haven't done any of his other plays since. I've always felt that Krapp is an autobiographical piece. You do feel, all the time, that it's Sam saying, "There but for the grace of…" Everybody who plays it has to find a specific reason for its existence. For me it's a kind of essay in aloneness – and an essay on self-deception, too, which Krapp is well aware of. He is like any addict. One side of him says "I shouldn't do this" and the other side says "But I'm going to – and what's more you know I'm going to." There are all kinds of private arguments going on there.
It was filmed by Atom Egoyan around the time of the Ambassadors shows. You'd think the play would translate to film very easily but Beckett was really a writer for the theatre. While the play appears to be quite intimate and small, it actually isn't – it's a highly theatrical device for a start. Egoyan opened it up. There was all sorts of bric-a-brac in the room and a window and I could never get used to those things. I felt I'd been slightly robbed of the play – a selfish reaction but then I'm very selfish about this play.
I recorded the voice of the younger Krapp, which is played throughout the piece, for the Barbican performance. It has been used for all the later stagings, from the West End to Washington DC and New York. The more I come to dislike what I did on the tape, the more it plays into the hands of the present Krapp.
The costume hasn't changed since the Barbican run. Beckett was a great cricketer and we found a wonderful pair of white 1920s cricket boots with the studs removed. And they squeaked! We thought, Well, Sam would have been thrilled. They still squeak. I don't know why…
• John Hurt performs White Rabbit, Red Rabbit at Holt festival on Friday 25 July at 6.30pm. Holt festival runs to 27 July.
•From Pinter to Hurt: Krapp's Last Tape in pictures
•Krapp's Last Tape review – Richard Wilson echoes Stockhausen
Krapp's Last Tape and the Futility of Human Existence
2345 WordsSep 5th, 200810 Pages
Question: Absurdist drama is often said to be a critique of the human existence, that the situation is often meaningless and absurd. Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape is a typical absurdist drama. How does Beckett, through the use of language, setting and the character Krapp, highlight the futility of the human existence in this particular drama?
Absurdist drama originated in the 1950s and follows Albert Camus’s philosophy that the human situation is meaningless and absurd (Culik). As such, absurdist drama is, in a sense, absurd. It follows none of the typical rules of modern drama, and that is in fact its true intention, to go against the norm so as to surprise or shock readers out of their comfort zone, to force people to confront the…show more content…
With regards to the drama itself, reminiscence on the part of Krapp is a major theme. The audience is introduced to a total of three Krapps, all different from one another. Hence the audience is able to view each Krapp as being detached from one another, in an intense separation of self (Lagier). Sixty-nine year old Krapp listens to a tape made by his thirty-nine year old self, in which his thirty-nine year old self muses on his actions when he was twenty-nine. To deduce exactly what Krapp is reminiscing about, the audience must listen closely to the content of the narration, as well as the present day Krapp’s reactions to it.
Twenty-nine year old Krapp, as recounted by his thirty-nine year old self, was living with a woman named Bianca, whom twenty-nine year old Krapp described as “hopeless business”. Thirty-nine year old Krapp derides his twenty-nine year old self for being “young whelp”, for making aspirations and resolutions like to drink less and to have a “less engrossing sexual life”. Thirty-nine year old Krapp believes that Bianca and the above resolutions are silly, for he “sneers at what he calls his youth and thanks to God that it’s over”. Twenty-nine year old Krapp then talks about the “shadow of the opus magnum”, which in essence belies his desire to be a great and successful writer, to publish an amazing and impressive piece of work that none will rival. This, thirty-nine year old Krapp appears to