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Krapp’s Last Tape review at Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘playful and generous’

Barry McGovern, Krapp's Last Tape, Edinburgh International Festival 2017. Photo: Pat Redmond Barry McGovern, Krapp's Last Tape, Edinburgh International Festival 2017. Photo: Pat Redmond
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Director Michael Colgan has Barry McGovern take his Krapp at a luxurious pace, in a production which is at once playful and generous in its presentation, yet hauntingly sad in its outlook.

Here are the theatrical tricks of the world of variety. Peeling his first banana as he paces before his metal-framed desk, McGovern throws the skin nonchalantly behind him and, as he continues to pace, elegantly misses it on his first pass, when seeming destined to slip. And hitting it with perfect timing when all thought of it as a threat has been forgotten.

When he reaches the extent of James McConnell’s lighting of the stage, there is a knowing leer out into the auditorium. He plays with the edge of darkness, moving in and out or it as if to mock debate on the nature of the word “Last” in the play’s title – will it be final or merely the most recent?

On the tape of the 39-year-old Krapp, that the now 69-year-old plays in anticipation of this year’s recording, McGovern is far from pompous. He has a certainty about him, a sense of direction which his bitter old version has lost and now finds abhorrent in its positivity.

It is in the playing and replaying of the story of lying with the beauty in the punt that the debate is resolved. The old man’s sigh of regret that such moments of intense eroticism will never happen again in his penny-a-go fumblings with Fanny seems terminal, as he lays his head down to rest on the tape machine for the last time.

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Verdict
McGovern and Colgan’s take on Beckett's masterpiece is playful and generous, yet hauntingly sad
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