John Hurt in the Gate Theater’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape (photo by Anthony Woods)
In the stage directions, Beckett described Krapp as "a wearish old man," whose body and voice creak with age and who is "very near-sighted (but unspectacled) [and] hard of hearing." Costumed in dusty clothes and outrageously squeaky shoes, Hurt is typically comfortable in the dryness of silence that punctuates the spare text. (Hurt also performed the role for a film version directed by Atom Egoyan, which is even gloomier -- see video embedded below.) Marooned in a square of warm light (designed by James McConnell), the edges of which he tests with a snicker in the wordless opening, Hurt looked tensely over his shoulder twice -- a gesture in the stage directions that Beckett reportedly claimed was the character's anxious glimpse at the waiting figure of death. It is a tension that is balanced by the absurd sequences with the bananas, for example, which Hurt peeled and ate quite conspicuously (sometimes, a banana is just a banana).
Peter Mark, The gentle authority of John Hurt in ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ (Washington Post, December 1)
John Hurt performs in Krapp's Last Tape through this Sunday, December 4, at the Lansburgh Theater. It then goes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (December 6 to 18).