Would you pay £40 for a 50-minute one-man play? And a Samuel Beckett play at that, where traditionally nothing happens slowly? The one man, admittedly, is Michael Gambon, one of the greatest living stage actors, our favourite Dumbledore and the Singing Detective of yore. In fact, you may need to be some kind of detective yourself to guess what is happening during the opening fifteen minutes as Gambon’s dirty and wizened Krapp wakes up at a desk, wanders around the stage eating a banana and then uses a second banana for a not-so-cheap knob gag.
Even after Krapp utters something, we are not much the wiser. Doing some research before you see this play would be a wise move as there are no onstage or scripted clues in this version to many key contextual elements; for example, that we are meeting a dying constipated Krapp on his birthday as he carries out his annual ritual of making a new tape of his thoughts and listening to old ones.
This play is notable for being a two-handed soliloquy. More than half the spoken words come courtesy of a tape of a younger Krapp contemplating an even younger self. In essence, this means watching a seated Gambon heavily emoting while we listen to a recorded Gambon. Even for a Beckett play, this is hardly a thrillride. It makes Waiting For Godot look like Bad Boys.
Gambon is hardly perfect here either. Although he works superbly within the limited script to invest the elder Krapp with a complex emotional state and touching mannerisms, he is less faithful to Beckett's original vision of Krapp - namely Irish, small and dying - than a Premiership footballer. The worst element is Gambon’s accent which is, like an unfortunate jaywalking hedgehog, all over the place. The younger Krapp has a pompous Home Counties-inflected accent while his older counterpart has a gravelly Donegal growl which occasionally goes mid-Atlantic.
Group rates aside, the cheapest tickets are £30 a pop, for which you can grab a copy of the original script, a critical guide to make sense of it and sit back with a drink of something nice somewhere nice while having enough money left over to enjoy a night full of great theatre.
Tickets for Krapp's Last Tape can be bought here and the show continues until November 20.