Krapp’s Last Tape - Samuel Beckett – John Hurt - New Ambassador’s Theatre
In January 2000 I went to the New Ambassador’s Theatre - London to see the Gate Theatre - Dublin production by Samuel Beckett of Krapp’s Last Tape written in 1950, starring John Hurt. Robin Lefevre was the Director, and Eddie Walsh Sound Designer. I have a special affection for Krapp’s Last Tape must be the age!
Every year on his birthday Krapp records his customary retrospect of the past year. But on the occasion of his 69th birthday he re-plays passages from earlier tapes and is confronted by the doomed hopes of his younger self. This autobiographical masterpiece climaxes with the piercing image of younger man who recognises too late what he has lost. John Hurt’s compelling and highly acclaimed performance promptly sold out at the BITE 99 Beckett Festival, resulting in extra performances and long queues for returns.
Hurt brings great pathos to the role of Krapp, the ageing, smelly, grunting man in tattered clothes playing the tape of when his young life still had wishes and dreams. Recalling a gentle encounter with a woman in boat a look of yearning comes on Hurt’s face and, for a moment, tears threaten, only to be brusquely shaken away; there is an evocation to Bianca with her incomparable eyes; memories of the death of his mother.
Krapp re-plays the strange, beautiful description of a lost life. He mutters that the best years are gone and that he would not have them back. He sacrificed everything and everyone but still regrets and desires remain.
In his 40-years career John Hurt has made some 90 films, usually taking roles of victimised characters such as the doomed heroin-addict convict in Midnight Express. The wrongly-hanged Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place; Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant; the deformed John Merrick in The Elephant Man; and the dissolute suicide victim Stephen Ward (of the Profumo affair) in Scandal.
The Gate Theatre, Dublin, was founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammoir. It was at The Gate that Dublin audiences were introduced to international theatre – to the work of Ibsen, Chekhov, O’Neill and Zola and the first-ever English-speaking production of Salome by Oscar Wilde (perhaps Dublin’s most famous son). Since those early days The Gate has toured world-wide and, in 1998 another of Wilde’s plays Lady Windermere’s Fan toured to the Spoleto Festival, Charleston. Another highlight of the 1999 season was The Gate’s acclaimed production of The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde (part of the Oscar Wilde centenary events).