An old man sits at a desk. He listens to audio recordings he made years ago that reflect on times in the even more distant past. Little else happens in the 50 minutes of Samuel Beckett’s one-man show, but this production is riveting for its duration. A lesser actor could struggle with the nuance required in the role, but Barry McGovern transforms it into a masterclass in acting.
This existential play showing a man in the twilight of his life has little action, but there is much potential for a performer to delve into the inner emotional life of the character. Feeble and sad, he evokes pity as he physically flounders and emotionally struggles. His regret is palpable as he repeatedly listens to his past self describe a particular memory with a woman who is clearly no longer with him.
Director Michael Colgan has worked with his designers to create atmosphere similarly gloomy. A dim overhead light casts stark shadows over Krapp's desk. A doorway into a bedroom is directly behind, and tapes are scattered on the floor. But beyond the limited throw of this light, there is endless dark. It's a canny representation of Krapp himself.
Though Beckett's distinct style is unpalatable to many contemporary theatregoers, this is a great production for those who claim to not like his work. This simple story of an elderly man facing death and regret head on, combined with an outstanding performance, makes for a fantastic theatrical experience.