Krapp’s Last Tape

Aug 23 2019 | By More

★★★★☆  Authentic Krapp

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 186): Tue 20– Sat 24 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Wistful and careful, Arkle’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape brings out the humanity in Beckett’s masterpiece. Often seen as a forbidding play, there is nothing remotely inaccessible about this.

It is a one-man show – albeit one in which the one man has more than one voice – and there is an authority to Ian Aldred’s performance that is very welcome. Less obviously decrepit than some versions of the character, it seems more likely that this ‘last’ tape could, as some speculate, be the ‘latest’ rather than the ‘final’ one.

Ian Aldred. Pic: Lorraine McCann

However, there is also some outright emotion, including an ending that is not necessarily what is always done. However, I don’t think there is any need to worry Beckett’s notoriously protective estate, as this is very definitely the play as he wrote it.

The evocation of memory and its failings remains a brilliant one. The 69-year-old Krapp listens to reel-to-reel recordings of his 39-year-old self (in which he talks about a recording made in his twenties). The technology may be old-fashioned, but the notion is, if anything, even more relevant.

Our attempts to rewrite our own narrative, or escape our past, are now even more likely to be defeated by the crushing weight of the digital archive, with social media’s habit of throwing back ‘memories’ not always welcome. And whether Krapp’s lack of understanding of his own past is caused by age, alcoholism, or his inability to sell his books to anyone but foreign libraries, it remains supremely touching.

a bitter beauty

Krapp’s younger self, ‘stronger and more self-important’, is well represented by Aldred’s recorded voice, and there is a careful contrast with the older version. Similarly, there is a definition to Aldred’s reactions to the recordings, and to the physical business that opens the play, that is extremely pleasing.

Ian Aldred. Pic: Lorraine McCann

That opening sequence is often more drawn out than it is here, but there is nothing wrong with the pace that director Lorraine McCann establishes. It may be one of the less stately Krapps, but it never hurries.

Even more so than some of Beckett’s better-known works, there is a bitter beauty to the play that is far from depressing. A signal of its greatness is how a work inspired by the inimitable recorded voice of Patrick Magee can slip clear of him and be so commandingly done by others.

And this is a commanding version. There are a couple of less secure moments, but this is a hugely compelling piece of theatre.

Running time 40 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club, 29-33 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Tuesday 20 –Saturday 24 August 2019
Daily at 11.30 am
Tickets and details:

Arkle website:


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