REVIEW: Krapp’s Last Tape [+ movements]
Francesco Loy Bell was impressed by a professional and innovative performance.
Putting on a Samuel Beckett play is never a simple task.
Putting on a Samuel Beckett play in a church even less so. Putting on one of Samuel Beckett’s most intriguingly ambiguous, disgruntling pieces, in Cambridge’s Round Church, and adding an arduous physical theatre routine is, by any degree, an extremely difficult task. Directors Peter Price and Kalvin Schmidt Rimpler-Dinh can be proud of their efforts; the performance was enticing, professional and ambitious, and the risk truly paid off.
The audience entered the hauntingly lit church to the sight of four actors lying in the foetal position, forming some kind of perverse cross. This was developed into a routine, and the actors’ discipline was impressive: it would have been easy, with the ominous bursts of saxophone encouraging them, to jump the gun and move too quickly.
However, this performance saw a high degree of unity from Price and Rimpler-Dinh, as well as Emily Mahon and Alex Cussons, and it was obvious that they had rehearsed meticulously together. Interposed with striking tableau imagery, the first physical section set the tone, the eerie movements perfectly complementing not only the surrounding church but also pre-empting the following scene.
The transition from the physical first chapter to the play itself was shaky, not only in terms of the narrative but also logistically. Having the audience relocate to another section of the church could have worked, and the scenery was ultimately perfect for the intimate soliloquy that followed, however, the execution was unfortunately flawed. Indeed, Price was forced to twice shout “enter” to encourage an understandably bamboozled audience to move, this somewhat breaking the spell that been so well formed.
Luckily, however, this was redeemed. Tim Atkin was excellent as Krapp, both on stage and in his on tape recordings, his subtly northern twang and raspy voice excellently juxtaposing with his sudden comedic turns (often to do with bananas), and equally harrowing coughing fits. Atkin induced a simultaneous feeling of disgust, amusement and sympathy, not an easy feat, and something which is crucial to the Beckett’s ambiguously emotional style.
The play concluded with a return to the original audience seats and a distressing closing routine, with the actors, this time, breaking the routine to experience epileptic-style fits. Though this was initially effective, the routine did become rather self-indulgent, seemingly basking in its own abnormality, and it could have done with being reduced. However, the desired effect was certainly obtained, and the play ended with the feeling of emptiness that is so resonant in Beckett’s work. Indeed, the stylised choice of not having the actors bow was an intelligent one, this lack of surety as to the play’s conclusion only fuelling this unnerving atmosphere.
A bold undertaking in a bold location and, ultimately, one that paid off.