On Saturday, I went to a play. It was a one man, one act play, and it stank. Now before you roll your eyes and call me an uncultured hussy, I actually go to a lot of plays. And I read plays. I have acted in plays. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have sat through some truly ‘interesting’ artistic works that have stretched the bounds of friendship as well as my sanity. This was much worse.
Krapp’s Last Tape, performed by Robert Wilson seemed to be conceived of, purely to drive a normal person insane. It wasn’t even ‘absurdly bad’ – that would have at least been something. This was, as was overheard by another patron on exiting ‘somewhat like being in jail for something you didn’t do’
It begins with literally deafening thunder and lightning. It was so loud, that I suffered pain in my ears and temples for about 3 hours afterward. Many in my section of the dress circle had to plug their ears. I had thought that the sound check was made by a deaf man, but on reading other reviews from around, this health hazard seemed to actually be a feature of the production. The first 20 minutes of the play, that is, after the actor sat in darkness at his desk for 10, was of Wilson felating 2 bananas. It was remarkable how far he got those down his throat in one piece, I have to admit.
Once some action started, it was all very childish. Yes, I know the point of the play is a regression and reminiscing of the past by a possibly senile man, but the way this was done seemed hammy and ‘high school playish’. He squeaks and freezes in the light like an old timey vaudeville ‘actor’ which didn’t fit the theme at all. This all would have been fine except for the fact that this was LITTERALLY EVERYTHING HE DID FOR THE FIRST 45 MINS. There was no story being told, it was, as ‘Sue’ says in the comments section in that link I shared above, like watching an uncle try to act up in front of the kids at a family event. Read her comments as they reflect what I felt, but in a more ‘I actually researched Samuel Beckett’s work’ kind of way.
The repetitive clicking and whirring of the audio spools could have been poignant, but they were made into an irritating child’s game. At one point, I got so hysterical I laughed maniacally under my breath, and on turning to my stricken friend, I whispered “What did I ever do to you?” I tried, I really did try to see the appeal of seeing an old man eat bananas, briefly listen to his audio diary of how he would rather write than have a relationship with a female human, haltingly dance and squeak across the stage in suspended horror, made up to look like Nosferatu. But I couldn’t.
I’ve tasked myself with reading the play, and watching John Hurt’s performance ( I see the reviews are good, although most were for this version as well….) to see if that gives me some context. But at the end of the day, it just wasn’t enjoyable. Especially the perforated eardrums.
P.S. Yes, I know some of you will still complain that I ‘just didn’t get it’ and that it’s brilliant. Yes, I agree, I don’t fucking get it.