Krapp’s Last Tape at Kazimir Gardens, Liverpool

Posted on 16 May 2016
By Miranda Humphrey-Green
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A production specially commissioned for Liverpool’s Light Night 2016 at The Kazimier Gardens Cosmolodge, this piece of bite-size Beckett is as tasty a morsel as you could hope for in an hour-long nugget, but with all the kick of a shot of neat vodka.

In an act of considered masochism, Nick Birkinshaw’s Krapp celebrates his 69th birthday by choosing at random, from his vast collection, an audiotape he has made some thirty years earlier. As he listens, he relives the death of his mother, his literary aspirations and a dalliance in a punt. Krapp is filled with self-loathing at his pompous younger self and occasionally baffled by details of what made the highlights of his 39th year but that he now has trouble recollecting at all.

The production begins in the dark, which is where the audience is firmly placed. Startling lighting from Phil Saunders illuminates the lone player of this piece, sitting at his desk, staring back at you with a look that rivets you to your seat.

Birkinshaw does not seek to explain his character but rather to just inhabit Krapp. The audience is drawn into Krapp’s den with him; not so much flies on the wall as inside Krapp’s own memory. It is the kind of performance throughout which you hear your own heart beat and reverberate around the intimate space that is the Kazimier Garden’s Cosmolodge.

For the first ten minutes, there is no monologue at all. We observe Krapp grapple with the decision to eat a banana, snipping the top and bottom off it with a pair of scissors before ritualistically slitting its length with one blade and sticking it in his mouth from which it protrudes awhile, rendering Krapp a morose one-tusked walrus, before it is demolished. The effect is both hilarious and pathetic.

Krapp’s cruel mistress – the banana – at once his fruity obsession and his constipation-inducing tormentor serves as a metaphor for Krapp’s ghoulish fascination with his younger self. He is both drawn to and appalled by what he hears. And it can be no mistake that the unfortunately named Krapp is unable to, well, crap. Birkinshaw’s portrait of a non-productive, impacted writer at the end of his life is both compelling and comedic, deeply poignant and yet somehow ridiculous.

Krapp’s Last Tape
The Kazimier Gardens Cosmolodge
13th May 2016
Performed by Nick Birkinshaw
Directed by Graeme Phillips
PR Rating: ***** Outstanding