Barry McGovern returns to the Edinburgh International Festival having performed Samuel Beckett’s work on previous occasions. In 2017 he is presenting Krapp’s Last Tape at the main performance room within the Church Hill Theatre. Beckett originally wrote the performance with the actor Patrick Magee in mind, after hearing Magee read a radio adaptation of his novel Molloy. In subsequent years Krapp’s Last Tape has been brought to the stage by a variety of actors (Harold Pinter and John Hurt being two of the most celebrated) and the one-act play is widely regarded as one of Beckett’s most beloved and poignant. With McGovern’s experience and love of Beckett’s work, he seems like the perfect actor to revive the show and bring to the Edinburgh International Festival with director Michael Colgan.
The performance begins with silence. A dimly lit reel to reel tape recorder is sitting on table to the centre of the stage and then the assuming character enters. The play begins as a physical performance piece. McGovern echoes Buster Keaton (who worked with Becket on the short film entitled Film) and struggles to eat a banana. Here the performer plays with silence and light. Krapp stalks the stage and allows the dim beams of light to bounce of his face, showing the contours and wrinkles of a man who is now in his senior years. Memory and the past are present by proxy in Krapp’s Last Tape. When the character takes his seat at the table he labours to set up a reel to reel tape so he can listen back at an audio diary from when he was 39 years old. He was younger, more naive then and the past is a source of anger for the now older Krapp.
Krapp’s Last Tape is a curious performance as it does not present a traditional drama. It asks questions on memory and how someone chooses to catalogue their life. It invites the audience to put the pieces of Krapp’s life together and imagine what else is contained in the canisters of tape that are present on the table top. Barry McGovern clearly takes absolute delight and joy in presenting Samuel Beckett’s work and this is obvious in his passionate, comedic and powerful performance in Krapp’s Last Tape.