Compressions of the soul…. After a time, the lights go down, and when they come up again, Krapp sits in the chair, the recorder cover in his lap. It is his birthday, the one day each year when he records a new tape. He sits there a moment, staring blindly, and then begins one of those great Vaudeville pantomimes that are Beckett’s hallmark: the fumble through the pockets, the watch held painfully to the eye, the right key in the fingers, the painful shuffle around the table to the first drawer, open it, peer in, pull out a tape, hold it up to the light, put it back, close the drawer, lock it; keys to the eye again, select another, open the second drawer, peer in, feel around with the paw, out comes a banana; close drawer lock it, straighten up and face the audience, stroke the banana, peel it, drop skin to floor, stick banana into mouth and stare vacantly into space.
A tape of thirty years ago, which Krapp eventually will play says:jotted down a few notes, on the back on an envelope. Good to be back in my den in my old rags. Have just eaten I regret to say three bananas and only with difficulty restrained a fourth. Fatal things for a man with my condition. (Vehemently.) Cut ‘em out! (pause.) The new light above my table is a great improvement. With all this darkness around me I feel less alone. (Pause.) In a way. (Pause.) I love to get up and move about in it, then back here to . . . (hesitates) . . . me. (pause.) Krapp.
He stows the banana in a vest pocket. Krapp shuffles off with lunatic briskness into the darkness and a cork pops, the first of several such pops from the dark. He emerges with an old ledger, put it on the table and rubs his hands briskly together. Life, it appears is about to begin.
What life?Why, the only life that matters to this diseased, dirty, drunken old hermit- the recording of Krapp’s story. But Krapp has no story. What he has is the iteration of a spot on a tape where experience got stuck thirty years ago. Krapp is a martyr to art, one who was burned. It is dangerous work, we’ve known that from as long ago as the caves, but we choose to overlook the hazards, for we need the product.
Had Krapp been an artist? Quite probably, at least he was a man overwhelmed by language: the sound of words, their power to make experience real, their power, in the end, to supplant experience. In fact, Krapp was too vulnerable to words; he should never have taken up the trade. He plays the tape:
…Sun blazing down, bit of a breeze, water nice and lively. I noticed a scratch on her thigh and asked her how she came by it. Picking gooseberries, she said. I said again I thought it was hopeless and no good going on, and she agreed, without opening her eyes. (Pause.) I asked her to look at me and after a few moments–(pause)–after a few moments she did, but the eyes just slits, because of the glare. I bent over her to get them in the shadow and they opened. (Pause. Low.) Let me in. (Pause.) We drifted in among the flags and stuck. The way they went down, sighing, before the stem! (Pause.) I lay down across her with my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side….
It is beautifully stated, and it is the end of Krapp, aged thirty-nine. What he had discovered that night on the jetty he can no longer bear to remember. Lies, probably the death of life. Whatever it was, it led him soon thereafter to that suicide in the punt. Men live their lives; artists must both live and celebrate; those who are destroyed by art celebrate instead o
ving. Fro Krapp reality became not the punt and the girl and the sun and the flags- but the tape that records those things.Then he puts on the old tape again:
… ” perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”
When an artist see’s himself as Krapp in his den, cursing and drinking and searching out he right word, fighting terror, and recording new reflections of old reports of sterile years; when that is the way he sees himself, he is going down. Way down. It is no wonder the play fascinates, since we are always asking one another what it must feel like to die. To look at oneself as an object of terror.
(see link at end)…The thirty-nine-year old Krapp felt he could be almost cavalier about the tape he listened to, while the elderly Krapp is compelled to search for exactly the tape he wants. Even with this clarity, the reel is not where it should be, and he scatters the boxes and tapes in frustration. When he listens to the tape, it raises his irritation and regret to anguished levels. He is thoroughly exasperated by the arrogant boor he has called into his solitude, but when he records his sixty-ninth birthday tape, his life seems diminished in comparison with the earlier one. His narrative falls apart, as he is overcome with nostalgia, and he violently aborts the recording, to reach for Box Three Spool Five. The remembered sexual encounter proves more rewarding than the present one, and Krapp loses himself in memory, as he listens. Read More:http://newyorkarts.net/2011/12/28/john-hurt-krapps-tape-dublin-gate-theatre-bam/#.UATPbPVb76M