Year: 1997

Title of the play: Krapp’s Last Tape

Author: Samuel Beckett

Director: Edward Petherbridge and David Hunt

Others in the Cast: Solo performance

Company/Event: Royal Shakespeare Company

Theatre and location: The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

Other productions of the same play: 1998 - The Pit, London; Brooklyn Academy of Music, Majestic Theatre, New York; Edinburgh Festival Fringe Assembly Rooms; Richmond Theatre, London; Theatre Royal (Ustinov Studio), Bath; Town Hall, High Wycombe; Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Mill Studio), Guilford; Salisbury Playhouse (Salberg Studio); Haymarket Theatre (Studio), Leicester; Derby Playhouse (Studio); Clwyd Theatr, Cymru. 1999 - Arts Theatre, London.

Plot summary: Krapp listens to parts of a diary tape he made 30 years earlier, makes a stab at recording a new tape and listens to the old tape again. That's it. Krapp hasn't had much of a life. His mother died while he was playing with a dog. He was in love once, but it didn't work out. He's written a book, but it sold poorly: "Seventeen copies sold, of which 11 at trade price, to free circulating libraries beyond the seas." If he isn't exactly Everyman, he's who every man fears he could turn out to be. Why does he even make the tapes? Simple human vanity, a persistent insistence, against all evidence, that his life matters enough to keep a record of it. - Summary from review here

Peth’s role: Krapp


Here is an actor of poise made for small gestures, who can make the turning of a page seem an act of consequence, who offers the idea in two or three small, shambling steps that maybe this is a tired old man who sits around listening to a tape recorder a lot because his feet are killing him. - Peter Marks, The New York Times, May 29, 1998

Edward Petherbridge is in hypnotic form in Beckett's haunting monologue about memory, mortality and the end of a love affair.- Charles Spencer, The Telegraph


Edward Petherbridge plays the melancholically nostalgic Krapp. Petherbridge, along with David Hunt, directs himself in the solo performance. - What's on Stage


When the single light first comes on above the desk, you get a shock: Edward Petherbridge's worn, hawkish face and wild, silver hair look, for a moment at least, uncannily like the playwright's. It's not just parallel physiognomies that make Petherbridge and Beckett such a perfect combination. As the disaffected and solitary Krapp, Petherbridge is precise and resonant: he can convey exasperation with just a twitch of his wrist. His Krapp is a man trapped by loneliness into well-worn rituals, his irritability not so much self-loathing as self-weariness. And he can hold and stretch the silences of the play longer than anyone in any production I've ever seen, which ultimately has a curious effect. In these elastic moments, you become claustrophobically aware of every inhalation, rustle, stomach-gurgle, scratch and murmur of the audience: the play about the debilitating effect of solitude paradoxically gives you a yen for seclusion. - Maggie O'Farrell, The Independent, 30 August 1998


Petherbridge's Krapp has the measure of the play's hapless, (literally) banana-skin slapstick, and its defensive, aching regret, as he brings to dwindling life this anal-retentive old man poring over, disgustedly dismissing, and then being drawn ineluctably back to, the recorded voice of his 39-year-old self. - Paul Taylor, 12 March 1998

Krapp (Edward Petherbridge) carries his tape recorder and boxes of tape to the brightly lit desk of his darkened "den", holding the load tightly to his bosom in a gesture repeated at the end of the play. These minor emendations of Beckett's stage directions are warranted because the machine is the surrogate for the lover he rejected in favour of "the fire in me now", a giant literary ego. Petherbridge's convincing Irish accent, and the downplaying of Krapp's vaudeville clownishness (no purple nose), hint at a "Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man". -  Egan, Gabriel. 1997d. Times Literary Supplement. vol. 4918. p. 20. 4 July. (pdf link)

Audience reviews:

Chris McCully, 41, lecturer, Manchester: What I find so significant about this production is how Petherbridge gauges the weight of silence, which is probably one of the hardest things to achieve on stage. And it was perfect. The silences in the text are really part of the dialogue that Krapp is having with himself and partly his dialogue with the audience - it's very difficult to pull off. I really enjoyed it. This is up there with the very best.

Production details: Here

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