(Lyn Gardner’s review appeared in the Guardian, 8/26.)
Written for TV in 1965, Samuel Beckett's 30-minute play – about a man endlessly forced to confront his past – has shades of Krapp's Last Tape, a role already excavated with ravaged power by Michael Gambon. This is the crueller piece. In Atom Egoyan's staging for Dublin's Gate theatre, Gambon plays an elderly man alone in a bare, monastic room, who is clearly afraid of something unseen. His hands tremble as he moves about the cell-like space, enacting a well-worn twilight ritual. He locks the door and checks in the cupboard. He peers under the bed like a nervous child looking for monsters. Only when satisfied that he is safe does he perch on the bed.
But he's not safe. In sealing the room he has created a prison, and locked himself into a past from which there is no escape. And he is not alone. A disembodied voice (Penelope Wilton) attacks him with insidious, predatory intent. It is the voice of a discarded lover taking a quiet, measured revenge for her own betrayal and for all the other women whom Joe once sweet-talked into his bed, lying that "the best's to come" even as he abandoned them.