Thursday, July 25

Krapp’s Last Tape – Unity Theatre

Marking the welcome return of Graeme Phillips to Unity Theatre and the directorial chair, with the support of Assistant Director Izzie Major and Producer Peter Ward, Krapp’s Last Tape, written by Samuel Beckett, holds a firm place in Phillips’ heart.

On his sixty-ninth birthday, Krapp (Nick Birkinshaw), as has become his custom, hauls out his old tape recorder to review one of the earlier years, and make a new recording commenting on the events of the previous twelve months. Whilst his younger self speaks to reveal an idealistic fool, will the passage of time reveal the kind of fool he has become?

Almost seventy years since it was written, this one-act play remains as relevant – perhaps more so – in 2024, when we all more readily identify with its themes of isolation, reflection, and loneliness following our experiences during the recent pandemic and its consequences.

As many people are aware, Phillips suffers from Parkinson’s and in recent years, the condition worsened as a result of medicinal complications which often resulted in hallucinations – although Graeme assures us this also resulted in some amazing ideas for the stage too! Now on a steadier path, this play has held a special place in Phillips’ heart since he first came across it as a young boy and was the last production he put on at Unity some ten years ago after some thirty-three years as its Artistic Director. The opportunity to revive the production with that original creative team was one not to be missed and also represented a chance to do something extra special: often considered an autobiographical memory play, Phillips has layered his interpretation from his own experiences of Parkinson’s which are touchingly brought to life by Birkinshaw – the spit of Beckett it has to be said – delivers an exquisite and emotional physical performance that movingly captures the challenges of this debilitating condition.

An impressive set by Phil Saunders, who also oversees lighting, and Ashley Shairp, who also oversees costume, gives a vital glimpse into Krapp’s den and his accumulated possessions, with supporting sound design from Patrick Dineen subtly reflecting the nuances of his life that was and that it has become.

Aside from hoping for a further revival of the play from Graeme, or perhaps another Beckett, there is also a renaissance going on at Unity Theatre following the recent appointment of Elinor Randle as Interim Artistic Director which reinforces the message that tonight is a beginning, built on love: the love for a play; the love between good friends to make impossible things possible; and a reminder to all of us to reach out and give the greatest gift – our time – to those we care for and love: for all the good that they do, care homes can be lonely places.

that theatre group is a new company founded by Peter Ward, producing work with and for older people living in care, further details https://www.facebook.com/thattheatregroup

The production is supporting Parkinson’s UK endeavours to change attitudes and find a cure. If you would like to find out more and make a donation to support their work then go to https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 10th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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