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Krapp's Last Tape By Samuel Beckett - The Crucible Studio

Published by: Paul Tyree on 15th Jul 2014 | View all blogs by Paul Tyree

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It is perhaps comforting that Samuel Beckett is not above a ‘slipping on a banana skin’ gag, which happens towards the beginning of ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’. It is precisely this sort of silliness that makes us warm to what is, undoubtedly, a piece of theatre that forces the audience to work harder than most and always therefore runs the risk of alienating its paying patrons.

Certainly the person who accompanied me into the land of Beckett had a mutual friend who had told her that it was the worst piece of theatre that she had ever seen.

It’s certainly not that but you could see how the piece itself might turn some people away from it. In other words this is one of those marmite plays that you will either love or hate probably on a totally subconscious level without ever being able to fully explain why.

What you can say, however,  is that before we deal with the script and the play itself there is much on offer here that is sumptuous and pleasing.

Richard Wilson himself with that marvellously rich deep slightly Scottish lilt gives us a character that is transfixing. His movements, his pauses, his breath even, all builds a character that we feel for and care for instinctively. He is a man alone, destined to stay alone and indeed die alone. There is something within that simplicity that all humans seem to fly away from whilst also always knowing that that is precisely how they too will end up.

The direction by Polly Findley and the set design by Alex Lowde combine to create a visual landscape of fantastic dramatic depth, indeed I’ve rarely seen the Studio stage used so well. We see Krapp encased in his own space, a glass box filled with the accoutrements and memories of a life now no longer lived but simply remembered. As it slowly revolves it is though we are seeing all sides of this person, forever repeating and reviewing the past.

What is so interesting about this play is that we seem to be looking into Krapp’s brain itself and that’s what this glass box really represents. Very quickly we have the slipping on a banana skin gag accompanied by much mirth from the audience. What we then quickly have is a repeat of the action but Krapp avoiding the same mistake and therefore this time not slipping on the banana skin. In other words what we have witnessed is the process of learning itself. We then have Krapp listening to his tapes in order to review, re-experience, perhaps even relearn his past and try and find some meaning in it all. Do we as people not do exactly the same thing all the time? The story you tell down the pub or over coffee is often told not for the benefit of the listener, but more often than not the benefit and self-aggrandisement of the teller.

Becket latches onto what is the inner revolve of the human mind, constantly learning, reviewing, rethinking, remembering and re-imagining in an attempt to learn and find meaning. That is what is so brilliant about this play that in so many ways it reflects back to the audience what they bring to it. That, I have no doubt is why so many of us find the experience uncomfortable. And that’s why it is also absolutely brilliant.

A work of art should be a challenge or it’s just ephemera. This is definitely a work of art so don’t miss the final few performances,.......... as who knows what you might bring to it?

Box Office: 0114 249 6000


Sheffield Theatres Trust
55 Norfolk Street
S1 1DA

Tue 15 Jul7:45pm£15.00

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Wed 16 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

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Thu 17 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

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Fri 18 Jul7:45pm£15.00*

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Sat 19 Jul2:15pm£13.00*

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Sat 19 Jul7:45pm£18.00*

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