Beckett revisited on the Fringe


This week, Krapp is resurrected. Samuel Beckett’s character in Krapp’s Last Tape comes back to life on the stage of the Victoria Theatre. This time, it is Lionel Newton, the 2002 winner of Best Actor Vita Award that gives Krapp his life back.

A solitary old man with unstable steps fumbles with an old record player for a while and listens. It turns out that the man listening to the old tape is Krapp at age 69. But it is the voice of the 39-year-old Krapp that filters out of the player. The strength of the voice and the content of the diary he is reading captured the image of a man who was once full of dreams and capable of excessive indulgences. A writer, a wine bibber and womaniser, Krapp led a busy life as a young adult. But that was 30 years ago. The character listening to the tape at present is an absent-minded old cynic.

As the spool (which he loves to pronounce as ‘spoo-ool’) of the tape rolls on, he realises how his dream of becoming a successful writer empties out without fulfillment. Left is the memory of past indulgencies manifested through addiction to alcohol, erotic thoughts, and love for banana.

Krapp’s Last Tape is a sad story. It is a story of unfulfilled dreams, and of the man who is not kind to himself. His solitude is rather a matter of choice than by accident.  But it is also a funny story, and Krapp humours himself occasionally. With his contorted face, quivering mouth, hunched-back stoop, Newton ensures that his audience had a good laugh.

Why did Newton choose to perform Beckett’s play at the Festival? He answered: “I love Beckett’s writings. His distillation of humanity is quite amazing. I also find the instability in his works exciting”.

When asked whether he considered himself unstable like many characters of Samuel Beckett, Newton replied, “what do you think?” Nonetheless, he describes himself as someone with fragile stability. “I never find stability in religion, for instance”.

Alongside Krapp’s Last Tape, the Newton performance will also feature other scenes including Rats!, Handover and others.

Ajibola Amzat