(Helen Meany’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/19; Photo: ‘Minute flickers of emotion’ … Stephen Rea in Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Vicky Featherstone, at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Photograph: Patricio Cassinoni.)


There isn’t a hint of sentimentality in Vicky Featherstone’s delicately calibrated production of Samuel Beckett’s monologue about mortality

Making his annual tape recording on the eve of his birthday, Krapp (Stephen Rea) lingers over words, as if English is not his first language. “Spool. Spooooool,” he pronounces, as he searches for reels of tape recorded in years past. Reminding us that Samuel Beckett wrote many of his works in French, it is one of a number of tiny, clever touches in Vicky Featherstone’s production.

Beckett’s celebrated play from 1958 is so precisely composed in its interplay of language, movement and silence that any new variations tend to be all in the detail. As the 69-year-old Krapp listens to tape recordings of his younger self, he pauses and interjects. Rea’s eyes register minute flickers of emotion, his years of performing to camera adding a subtlety that seems effortless.

Bemused by the confident delivery of the 39-year-old on tape, Krapp mocks his younger self’s artistic ambition. As he berates himself for his lack of achievement in the intervening years, Rea brings a harsh, almost sarcastic tone to his self-criticism, deepening its pathos. Not only does Krapp feel like a failure but he has to kick himself about it as well.

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