Select Page

Krapp’s Last Tape: the reel thing

by | Oct 6, 2018 | Review | 2 comments

This is a guest review by David Johnston *

Krapp (Linden Banks) unspools a smart performance in Seven Tyrants Theatre’s production. (Photo: Seven Tyrants Theatre)

It’s as frustrating as hell. Except that’s a feature, not a bug.

Honestly, I think most Samuel Beckett scripts, if done right, are going to occasionally frustrate the hell out of audiences. The Irish modernist combines absurdism and monotony to create singular dramatic cocktails. Seven Tyrants Theatre has unearthed one of his works for the season opener at their new Tyrant Studios.

We meet Krapp (Linden Banks) in a spotlit room with a desk and a tape recorder. Tonight he will both listen to an audio tape of himself from 30 years prior, and record a new tape. Neither of these will go off without a hitch. Sounds like a good dramatic structure, right? It is.

First, though, we must wade through interminable opening business with bananas and locked drawers. Or sometimes Krapp will leave the stage for 30 or 40 seconds, to make distant clatterings. Call it the theatrical equivalent of needing to eat your vegetables before you get dessert.

And all this nonsense is choreographed to the letter in Beckett’s script. Banks doesn’t emotionally fill all of it, though when the playwright repeatedly hands you the stage direction “puts end of banana in his mouth and remains motionless, staring vacuously before him” and the director opts to faithfully render it, there’s only so much an actor can do.

The absurdity, the stream-of-consciousness, the sparseness: they’re parts of the web being spun. Beckett writes scripts like symphonies, and knows how to use the sounds of words and nuggets of memory to craft emotional masterpieces.

Does any of this dutiful literary praise change the fact that I was bored out of my gourd for good chunks of the show? Nope. But boredom is one note in the symphony. At other times, I was rapt, fearful, amused, and saddened, and the monotony and rituals served to set off the emotions elsewhere—though perhaps boredom is leaned on a little aggressively in this particular score.

Banks gives a lovely, grounded performance that navigates a complicated internal life without telegraphing too much. He absolutely nails the essential skill required for a theatrical outing like this one: listening. Watching his face for microexpressions and tiny reactions is an epic detective challenge for the audience, and a deeply satisfying one at that. A few passages feel somewhat recited, but Banks’s use of silence speaks volumes. And the tactile pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding of Krapp’s audio reels creates an earthy, propulsive momentum.

When a production is as minimalistic as Krapp’s Last Tape, tiny design errors (i.e. a white extension cord that practically glows in the dark, white face paint that doesn’t cover the scalp) stick out like sore thumbs. Director/costume-lighting-props-set designer David Thomas Newham might have benefited from another pair of eyes to spot the details he missed.

Krapp’s Last Tape is worth seeing. Just keep your expectations tuned to the fact that there are a lot of vegetables to chew through.

KRAPP’S LAST TAPE Written by Samuel Beckett. Directed by David Thomas Newham. Presented by Seven Tyrants Theatre. At Tyrant Studios on Friday, October 5. Continues until October 26.


David Johnston is a Vancouver-based actor, aerialist, and writer, not in that order. He is a recent graduate of Studio 58 and always appreciates the opportunity to bloviate thoughtfully about theatre and art. David is not above including a shameless plug in his bio for the upcoming season of Duggan Hill, a horror-storytelling podcast he occasionally guests on.


NEVER MISS A REVIEW: To get links to reviews on this website, plus the best of international theatre coverage, sign up  for Colin Thomas’s FRESH SHEET, a free weekly e-newsletter.

And, if you want to keep independent criticism alive in Vancouver, check out Colin’s Patreon page. Newspapers are dying and arts journalism is often the first thing they cut. Fight back!


  1. Colleen O'Reilly

    I so wish I lived closer I would never miss one of his performances if I did. Linden Bank’s has and still is a excellent actor he puts his heart and soul into his work good review.

  2. Colleen O'Reilly

    Linden is a great actor who puts his heart and soul into his work .


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.