Go On and Krapp's Last Tape @ Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Niall Buggy captivates as the cranky, cantankerous Krapp in this double bill delivered by the Citizens Theatre
"Krapp is in no way senile but has something frozen about him," Samuel Beckett reportedly told Rick Cluchey, the actor who performed as the iconic character in 1977. "[He] is filled up to his teeth with bitterness." It's a fitting description from a playwright known for infusing grotty, physical details with an emotional charge – even Krapp's name is a vulgar allusion that somehow still feels sad.
In this production of Krapp's Last Tape, directed by Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Hill, Irish actor Niall Buggy does the intense physicality of Beckett's writing an extraordinary justice. He plays Krapp, the lonely, eccentric, cantankerous old man pouring over tape recordings of his past. Buggy's portrayal has a precision and a patheticness that captivates from start to finish. Whether peering over reels of tapes and practically bending over backwards to see them, or peeling a banana with greedy, anticipatory pleasure, Buggy is impossible to look away from, even before he opens his mouth.
The set and Stuart Jenkins' lighting design are perfect, too: a long, skinny lamp illuminates Buggy's every facial expression as Krapp reacts to his younger self on the tapes, the rest of the stage shrouded in shadow. The set is bare, save for a slender table centre-stage, where Krapp plays and pauses his tape recorder obsessively and rummages in drawers for bananas and keys. It works exquisitely in the Tron's large main auditorium space, radiating a sense of quiet isolation: a small window into a small man's world.
This double bill opens with new short play Go On by Linda McLean, written in response to Krapp's Last Tape. Go On presents the interaction between 69-year-old Jane and her AI counterpart, who, it seems, is in training to replace her when she dies.
The premise is clever and chilling and some of the imagery is beautiful – particularly when it delves into the intricate, random details of memory, such as when Jane reflects on a childhood kidney-shaped table – but it still feels as though the material hasn't yet reached its full potential. Jane's vulnerability and pathos could be explored more, though actor Maureen Beattie does a fantastic job at filling in the edges of the character (she should be particularly commended for her impressive timing when interacting with the digital version of herself, pre-filmed and presented on a sleek digital screen).
Go On is also impeccably directed by Hill, whose staging of the show – with the AI 'Jayne' speaking from a thin, pop-up screen reminiscent of a chat box on Zoom – is remarkably savvy. After 18 months of closure due to COVID-19, the Tron reopening with this double bill, with its themes of loneliness, nostalgia and the human drive to keep creating versions of ourselves, feels uncannily perfect.
Krapp's Last Tape with Go On, Tron Theatre, Glasgow until 9 Oct