Today in Literary History – October 28, 1958 – first performance of Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett’s one-act play “Krapp’s Last Tape” was performed for the first time on October 28, 1958, at The Royal Court Theatre in London.

In the play a man named Krapp is sitting in his den with a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He has a long tradition of recording a message on each of his birthdays re-capping the past year.

On this day it is Krapp’s 69th birthday and before making his recording he picks out an old tape, made on his 39th birthday and listens to it, fast forwarding and rewinding it, clearly moved by it, mostly to disgust.

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When he comes to record his own message it is one of self-pity and regrets and total disdain for the man he has become on the brink of old age.

I saw the play staged once about 20 years ago, when I was about the same age as the younger Krapp on the tape recording. I found it very sobering at the time. I wonder how I would view it now. I hope I wouldn’t identify with the dyspeptic older Krapp.

Beckett himself was 54 when he wrote the play, somewhere in the middle of the younger and older Krapps.

Despite his severe appearance in most photographs of him and his generally bleak but humorous works, Becket is described by most of his biographers as having been warm and kind and good company over a dram of whisky.

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