Beckett Double Bill @ The Citizens Theatre
Everything about Dominic Hill’s re-staging of Krapp’s Last Tape is bigger - the bleak comedy, the gesticulations and sighs, even the leading man. Gerard Murphy is a big bear of a man-two parts Albert Finney to one part William Shatner, with a pinch of lunacy. It is a bold piece of casting, as Beckett’s leading men are generally more on the haunted and cadaverous side.
One of the most celebrated of Beckett’s plays, it sees the troubled, lonely Krapp sit in his front room on his 69th birthday trying to make sense of his life via the device of listening to tapes he made aged 39. He cuts dead his previous pretentions with a swift, almost Tourettes-inflected “SHITE!” and “BOLLOCKS!” and it is never clear whether this is through jealousy of his more youthful, idealistic self or merely the refusal to become sentimental in his autumn years.
There is an onomatopoeic love of language, the joy of the word “spoooool” and poetic repetition of love affairs played back are accompanied by the famous banana consumption, although Hill refuses to have Krapp slip on the skin, as with previous stagings. This aside, it works- I especially loved the corking and uncorking of bottles in the darkness as Krapp settles into a comfortable depression for the night.
Footfalls is an altogether different, more stripped-back proposition, and even more effective for that. Almost obscured in the darkness but for her long hair, Kathryn Howden as the enigmatic May, dressed in mermaid like blue-grey lace, paces the floor with metronomic precision, talking to her terminally ill mother. Kay Gaille provides the haunting, stream-of-consciousness voices beautifully. It is a chilling, mesmeric deconstruction of the care-giving feminine ideal of nurturing mothers and daughters, as the characters’ lives co-exist in the past and present, wilfully obscured like Howden’s face. It's hard to know where one ends and one begins. An ethereal play which stays with you long after it fades.