Sunday, 8 March 2015

Krapp's Last Tape - Back to Back Beckett

David Robertson                      Photos: Richard Wilcocks
Maddie Mason writes:
As David Robertson began his second scene, taken from Krapp’s Last Tape, the audience was captivated by the introduction of surreal silence. With a lack of speech, the concentration was entirely focused on David’s performance skills.  He captured the character of Krapp as if it were his natural self: watching the beginning of the scene felt like invading someone’s ordinary routine as he appeared to mutter to himself. The effective use of dimmed lighting and the sense of intrusion provoked an intimate atmosphere between David and the audience. Though he used more props to set the scene than he did for From an Abandoned Work, the set remained minimalist which allowed the focus to be maintained upon Krapp and, of course, on the recording coming from the tape player. 

I was vaguely shocked as he started the tape recording and flung the remaining boxes off the table in surprising fury. His interesting use of vintage technology was successful and authentic. In such a small venue it was a remarkable productive feature to project the tapes. Having never seen the play performed before, it was fascinating to watch Krapp listen to tapes of his former self in order to remember and recount his life. 

Mora Grey
In the discussion afterwards, Mora Grey commented that she did not find Beckett’s work entirely depressive: David emulated this argument and told us how he had exaggerated the comedic aspects within the play, especially at the opening of the scene when he demonstrated a cyclical tableau of unlocking his drawer, eating a banana, swigging from a bottle off-stage and repeating. 

David portrayed Krapp as frustrated and slightly exasperated; it was a really interesting, captivating and effective performance and it was a real pleasure to watch.

Mark Taylor-Batty

Charlotte Gray writes:
​As someone who has studied Beckett, I can definitely sympathise with anyone who finds his plays intriguing but frustratingly dense. Back to Back Beckett offered a brilliantly acted and accessible way in to Krapp's Last Tape, which was only enhanced by the informal discussion that followed the performance. 

The panel of speakers included Mora Grey, who recently published a novel based on the experience of staging Beckett's plays, and Mark Taylor-Batty, a Theatre Studies lecturer at the University of Leeds. The varied backgrounds of the panelists allowed for rich and enlightening discussion about Beckett's life and about their personal experiences of his plays.

What I took away the most from the Q&A was a greater appreciation for the detail that goes into staging a Beckett play and the detail that Beckett himself put into his staging. The ability to see Krapp's Last Tape performed and then discuss it afterwards really helped to illuminate both the play and the gripping yet emotional effect it has on its audience. 

Kate Baldwin writes:
Dave Robertson’s performance of Beckett’s From an Abandoned Work was wonderfully dynamic. With no props or set, he managed to convey the turmoil the narrator was going through with brilliant phrasing and animation. The audience seemed to hang on his every word, kept on tenterhooks by the constantly  changing pace, a perfect reflection of the constantly changing mood of the narrator. 

From a hurried rant about birds and butterflies “getting in [his] way”, to a leisurely appreciation of the flora, my attention was continually in David’s grasp: a testament to both Beckett’s talented writing and David's enthralling performance. Even more impressive since I had not yet had my interval cup of tea to perk me up! Not having studied Beckett in depth myself, I found this interpretation a good initiation into the playwright’s work, one that has inspired me to delve further. 

Audience comments:

David at his best. Krapp’s Last Tape mesmerizing. Enjoyed part 1 – amazed that it had been abandoned.

Beautifully performed – thought provoking, life changing! Really enjoyed this event.

Compelling and sensitive performance of unusual and thought provoking material. Thank you David – hope you don’t get indigestion from that banana!

Thrilling introduction to Beckett with wonderful insights.  

Wonderful performance by David, not least his mastery of the tape recorder. Interesting panel discussion and insight into Beckett. Not the most popular of playlets but full of imagery and emotion.

Intense format/performance. Enjoyed the small/intimate/informal setting.

Moving and stimulating excellent performance – most enjoyable.  

Very interesting to see an ‘unknown’ Beckett. Good performance. Krapp’s Last Tape – good to see this extraordinary play. Very good event.

Excellent reading in first half – delightful to hear such a vivid piece, completely unknown. Krapp’s Last Tape beautifully performed.

Very successful production. Very authentic, Dave. With plenty of cause for thought and awareness of time passing moving to present – and then beyond – the human condition – I could see it again.

A wonderful enigmatic performance and wouldn’t really have made as much sense without the discussion and being enlightened about the life of Beckett by Mora Grey.

David Robertson gave good value in the reading from Beckett’s prose piece (rarely performed) and acting Krapp’s last Tape affectingly before a good audience.  

Lovely performances! Thank you for putting this on – first time attending, will be back. Cheers.

First time seeing any performance of works by Beckett. Excellent performance! Of both sections! More likely to go to other LitFest activities because of coming. Thanks!

Very clearly performed – completely absorbing – I felt, as ever with such plays and readings, that it is vital to life – venue good too – cakes Delicious

Not knowing Beckett’s work, I found the discussion thought-provoking ensuring that I reflected back to the performance. In some ways I would have liked to see the play again for I’m sure I would have seen it through new eyes.

Bravo David! The first piece a revelation.

Very engaging, great performances.

Was this actually an abandoned work? That’ll take the shine off their bliss.

Really good acting and a great choice of play. Thank you very much. Great cake also.

Excellent performance – highly enjoyable!

Despite an excellent and heartfelt performance I felt this rendition of SB’s work cured me of ever wanting to hear anything from SB. I felt that a very good performer was struggling with tedious and pretentious verbiage. I’m afraid that this work was unfinished because if it was finished it would ???? The tea and cake was some consolation but afterwards I escaped to the Oxfam bookshop  … to recover.

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