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Krapp’s Last Tape

November 26th & 27th at 8pm

[tab name=”Show”]Krapp’s Last Tape

OKT/Vilnius City Theatre

Director Oskaras Kor?unovas and actor Juozas Budraitis fostered the idea to stage Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape” for more than two decades. Finally, the play is presented at the OKT Studio.

It is one of the classic works of absurdist literature, questioning the painful theme of a person’s change throughout their lifetime. According to the main and only character of the play, Krapp, it is his personal retrospective journey to the past. A man who has lived a long life sits in his room, surrounded by heaps of tapes with recordings of his own voice made a long time ago.

“I had the idea of staging “Krapp’s Last Tape” twenty years ago, after I’d staged my first play “There to Be Here” by Daniil Kharms. In the course of those twenty years, meeting with Juozas from time to time, we kept remembering this common idea of ours. Now we feel the time has finally come.” – says Kor?unovas.

Juozas Budraitis is a film, television and theatre actor who has played close to a hundred roles in various Lithuanian and foreign film and television productions. His name is associated with the most famous Lithuanian films: “Nobody Wanted to Die,” “Feelings,” “Little Confession,” and others.

“Many details in the play coincide with real life. The play consists of an elderly person’s recollections, reflections, analysis of his life, and condemnation of the mistakes he has made. All these paradoxes do take place in one’s life, even though it seems to them that their life is calm, gentle, and logical. In reality it is full of different errors, surprises, unjustified and inexplicable things. All of this can be found in Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” – says J. Budraitis.

Composer Gintaras Sodeika wrote the music. He has accompanied the director from the very beginning of his creative path. The stage design was created by Dainius Li?kevi?ius, who has previously co-worked with Kor?unovas on “The Lower Depths” and “Miranda.”

Kor?unovas agrees that putting on Becket’s play is not easy. On the other hand, it is yet another accepted challenge. A difficult but somewhat interesting one, especially when you work with an actor of the calibre of Juozas Budraitis. “Beckett’s plays are like stones. Purified existentialism and strong characters do not leave room for interpretation. You either become the symbol or not. There is nothing to act. I would never have staged “Krapp’s Last Tape” if not for Budraitis, who may very well become the Beckettian symbol  due to his age, experience and intellect” – says Kor?unovas on the iron logic of the play.


Author – Samuel Beckett
Director – Oskaras Kor?unovas
Set designer – Dainius Li?kevi?ius
Composer – Gintaras Sodeika
Technical director – Mindaugas Rep?ys
Props and costumer – Edita Martinavi?i?t?
Stage manager – Malvina Matickien?
Subtittling – Aurimas Minsevi?ius
Touring manager – Audra ?ukaityt?

CAST Juozas Budraitis

Performance in one act
Duration – approximately 1 hour
Premiere – 30th May 2013 Vilnius (Lithuania)

 krapp[/tab][tab name=”Photo”](c) Dmitrijus Matvejevas

[/tab][tab name=”Press”]Turning into a human being

Andrius Jevsejevas / Lietuvos rytas


The play “Krapp’s Last Tape” directed by Oskaras Kor?unovas and shown at the OKT/Vilnius City Theatre was the last premiere of the season, rounding off a rather poor year of the Lithuanian theatre. Last year, our theatre has missed yet another opportunity to take on artistic research of poignant subjects. The fear or reluctance to go beyond professional traditions and rebel, the suppressed need of the younger generation to deny the older one – such is the reality of our aging theatre.

In this context, the appearance of “Krapp’s Last Tape” by a classic playwright of Absurd Theatre is rather interesting. The play exposes the two problems that concern the entire theatre community: the passing of time and the fragility of identity resulting from it.

Three epochs collide

This last production of O. Kor?unovas has a few other interesting aspects as well. In the play, Krapp, already an old man, listens to recordings of his own voice made three decades earlier, when he was 39, in which he talks about his youth. The play is a meeting point for people from three different epochs: O. Kor?unovas, a 44-year-old director, Juozas Budraitis, a 72-year-old actor, and S. Beckett, a playwright from the middle of last century.

The Irish playwright once said that he tried to write plays in a way that minimized the director’s chances to change their structure. So, it is curious to see how the material of the play is be treated by O. Kor?unovas who has allowed himself the liberty of reconstructing drama classics more than once.

“Krapp’s Last Tape” is a confrontation with the passing life and its imminent end.

We see an old and sickly loser who listens to his voice recorded three decades ago. Krapp is a writer who has sold no more than a dozen copies of his books to a few overseas libraries.

Throws a banana at the audience

The directors treats S. Beckett’s text with respect – he pays attention to most of the notes and comments of the playwright. At the onset of the play, J. Budraitis is sitting on one of the chairs meant for the audience, as atmospheric music by Gintaras Sodeika playing is in the background.

Once the lights go off, Krapp gets up and walks to the tiny area in the corner of the OKT rehearsal hall, designed by the visual artist Dainius Li?kevi?ius, containing a table with a tape recorder and a desktop lamp which lights the space with a narrow beam of light. He is panting heavily and from time to time gives a mischievous chuckle.

Krapp gets a banana from a box, peels it with pleasure, puts it in his mouth, and begins teasing the audience. More than that, he actually throws the banana skin at it. Then another banana. This time Krapp is less playful: he peels the banana nervously, and then throws it with a backward hand motion at the audience. Then he hides in his corner and hastily eats the fruit like an anxious hamster.

After that, Krapp slowly walks behind the audience, which now hears the sound of a bottle being nervously opened followed by greedy gulps. Apparently, Krapp is drinking alcohol because he shakes, sighs, burps and shuffles back awkwardly to the table. He takes out a tape, puts it on with difficulty and, as a result, we finally hear a recording being played.

And now we immediately face (or hear, to be more precise) almost the only interpretative act of Kor?unovas, basically turning the play upside down: while the author has indicated that the recorded voice of Krapp should be strong and pretentious, what we hear is a tired and rasping voice of Budraitis-Krapp.

Gives his own interpretation of death

By juxtaposing the actor’s physical and emotional expression, Kor?unovas offers his own interpretation of death: the process of aging, drinking, and physical degradation is presented as a sobering of thought and consciousness, turning into a human being.

From a grubby and dishevelled ape, someone who devours bananas in a corner like a hungry rodent, from a dotardly old man, amused by the sound of the word “spool”, who giggles as he throws banana peels at the audience, Krapp slowly turns into a human being.

“Perhaps my best years have gone. But I wouldn’t want them back,”- we hear from the tape in the last scene, as Budraitis-Krapp collapses on his chair. Strong enunciated words coming from the recording are the words of a person who understands the inevitability of death and consciously gives in to it – a sort of link with “The Lower Depths”, which is performed within the same walls.

The squealing and rasping tape resembles Krapp in the beginning of the performance. In the end it breaks…

The actor doesn’t hang himself. Nor does he ruin the song. Sentimental? Pathetic? Maybe. But no more than the passing of time is.

Cheating loneliness
Kristina Steiblyt? / 7 meno dienos



“Krapp’s Last Tape” is a play about a person’s life, and their choices that do not make them proud, the obligation to live in the past, not having a future. It seems to be one of the most poignant and saddest works by Beckett. It does not lack self-irony though, as the main character is rather comic, but all the funny behaviour gradually becomes tragic in the drama, and each eccentric action takes on a new meaning – what made us laugh in the beginning of the play becomes the only way to be, not even live, but, rather, to exist in anticipation of the end for the old man plagued by his own choices and experience. The dismal atmosphere is in tone with the play “Cathedral” by Justinas Marcinkevi?ius staged recently by Kor?unovas. The productions are connected not only by the strong atmosphere of the nearing end and admission of defeat encoded in the dramas, but also, for example, by the darkness of the stage space inspired by the texts.

Juozas Budraitis meets the audience inside the dark space of the OKT Studio where the only source of light is a desktop lamp. Only Krapp’s table is illuminated; the atmosphere is quite intimate and cosy. The audience having settled in their seats, fidgety Budraitis-Krapp moves from his place and the play begins. The interpretation of Krapp’s character chosen by the director leaves mixed feelings. On the one hand, the eccentric dotard is fairly annoying, but, on the other hand, when he listens to his own texts, or begins recording his voice, he seems to be full of common sense, critical and sensitive. As if two personalities for some reason had settled in one and the same character. […]

[…] When listening to your own voice in a recording, the audience, merely creatures filling in the darkness, may disappear. Possibly their function was only to sit in darkness and help Krapp not to feel alone (“With all this darkness around me I feel less alone.”) But he walks towards the ghosts whose sole purpose is to cheat loneliness, even communicates with them in his own peculiar way, so it becomes hard to feel only as a shadow or a target for banana peels. At this point we can see the similarity with “The Lower Depths,” in which the actors deliberately manipulate the performer-perceiver relationship by sometimes directly addressing the audience and then switching to interaction amongst themselves. […]

Some of the details seem really good; justifying certain directorial solutions. For example, Krapp’s attire: light clothes similar to pyjamas sticking out from under his coat. Krapp’s appearance is simple, consistent with the spirit of the drama as well as the play. It also helps Krapp to justify his image of a crazy old man: his outfit creates the impression as if Krapp were in a clinic or had just escaped from it. A small but important detail, which can not be unnoticed with the actor being so close to the audience, a golden ring on the his finger, shows that he who has deliberately rejected all human relationships, however, (led by nostalgia or insanity) consciously wears an object indicating his unloneliness.

Unlike in the play where Krapp tries to record his voice one more time, in the show he dies defeated – while listening to texts about the best years of his past “When there was a chance of happiness.” And his farewell to life is again accompanied, only this time in total darkness, by his farewell to love coming from the tape. Such an end is very human as it ends the suffering of the character and gives peace to a body that has not been functioning properly for quite a while. […]

While Krapp is no longer, his works (not only his book that no one bought, but, of course, his life recorded on tapes for himself) live on. They suffer just as unneeded as their creator. The atmosphere of parting is especially convincing.


Looking for time. Lost space
Daina Habdankait? / Literat?ra ir menas



The performance will attempt to unlock time, and, by extension, itself – this is evidenced by details well thought out by the director’s team, such as a pocket watch, linked by a chain to the key of a tin box. Inside the box – a banana – not much of a secret, really without the slightest poetic air. The search for time in the play is rather ironic, even absurd: the repetition of time frozen in the records is a return to where it is no longer possible return to and, at the same time, a move forward along the recurring cycle of experience. This repetition structures the rhythm of the play, as well as the word “spool” savoured by Krapp, denoting the chronological repetition as the reel keeps turning.

But in the beginning there is no tape, strictly speaking, there isn’t even a beginning as such. A desktop lamp turned towards the audience is the only source of light in a small dark room. From behind the audience, a man (J. Budraitis) walks to the space outlined as the stage. He’s wearing a long, heavy coat. Breathing heavily he collapses on a chair in front of the table, turns the lamp to himself dividing the flat space into two zones: the zone of acting and the zone of observation. The performance begins.

The space of the performance is curved – the centre is moved to the left side, because on the right there is a piece of the stage covered from the audience’s eyes with a black curtain. Yet most of the action takes place at a dimly lit table with books, paper, and tape recorder on it. Moreover, the space of the stage becomes somewhat extended when Krapp walks behind the audience and begins to noisily rummage through his old stuff, croaking loudly and drinking from a bottle. It seems the viewer becomes incorporated in the play, taking part in the illusion of an uncomfortable coexistence. However, the spatial fragmentation separation remains, as the actor moves among the audience in the centre of the room – the backstage, which was once at the front now is moved to the sides – the black spots which the play does not physically invade. Trying to outline the main character’s movement in your imagination, you become lost just as you become lost trying to identify your own status in this process: you are not fully an observer, since you do not have a seat in the stalls or loge, nor are you a participant, as you do not get involved in the action, perhaps even on the contrary, any contact with you as a spectator is avoided. The actor faces a difficult task: in the small room there is nothing to rest his desperate gaze on – the objects are scarce, and there are only viewers’ eyes in front of him, thus he turns his gaze towards himself.

Krapp’s old age like the time that has passed is captured not only on tapes, but also in his voice: the man croaks, munches, loudly pours his drink and loudly gulps it down – the vivid sounds of human existence envelop the viewer. Sometimes the physiology of sounds seems way too graphic to the point that the sound seems to be playing itself.


The character of J. Budraitis reacts to what he is hearing: repeats words with his lips, fidgets in his chair, wrings his hands and drums his fingers. It is the relationship with himself in a different time – with himself a long time ago when he didn’t know the things he would experience later in time, when his voice was full of life, vibration, and excitement. Comparing the voice on the tapes and on the stage, it is impossible not to admire the wide range of the actor’s articulation and intonations: from excited thrill in his voice to a croaky voice of a sick old man. […]

S. Beckett’s play is ironic and cold – this is probably due to the very nature of writing, which, being motionless, possesses the ability to trigger the reader’s internal experience. It is a challenging task to stage such a play, because of the necessity to convey inner experiences to the outer world. In O. Kor?unovas’ staging the play gains warmth, especially at the end when a lyrical melody carries us away from the awkward atmosphere of squeaky voices and boxes, like in the Greek catharsis. Although we can feel the absurd in this play, O. Kor?unovas prefers the principle of the final resolution of a tragedy – with relief, enlightenment, and thoughtful insight. Apparently the search for lost time can be different for different people – ironic for some people and sad for others.


Vox, Logos, Fallos

Konstantinas Borkovskis / Men? fakt?ra


“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”

Ps. 118:22


It seems that in “Krapp’s Last Tape” the key passion of director Oskaras Kor?unovas was to reach the essence of the play while avoiding old age as the fundamental element of its pathos. The director achieved his goal through wise organization of the space.

The performance starts at the door. Entering the dark room through the doorway covered with a heavy black curtain, members of the audience immediately become participants of a “room theatre” performance. They hear cacophonous sounds made by piano strings strummed by Gintaras Sodeika. The number of chairs seems to be deliberately reduced. Actor Juozas Budraitis (Krapp) sits slumped in one of the chairs. He is dishevelled and murmuring something incoherent.

Such premeditated arrangement of the audience (reminiscent of the Chinese Emperor’s terracotta army soldiers) is a flashback to the times of “room theatre”. Kor?unovas always bases his performances on a very specific, easily palpable genre, each time a different one. The “room theatre” genre, popular during the days of the Soviet “underground”, has contributed to the director’s ideas and the main character’s existence.  Luckily, the director managed to avoid the unattractive, but nowadays quite popular genre of a “corporate party”. Had the opposite been the case, all the implications and passions of the play would have been in vain.


I had been anxious about how Kor?unovas and Budraitis would solve the problem that most of the text comes from a tape recorder? Their version of “Krapp’s Last Tape” is the only version I’ve seen where this paradox is successfully resolved.

At first glance, there’s nothing special, either in acting, or directing. Yet, the play vividly conveys the essence of Beckett’s texts. After all, they can only be properly understood when the opportunity to hear their sacred sound is created, and Kor?unovas is a director who raises every play he directs, whether modern or classic, to the level of modern mythologisation.

We are talking about the sacredness of the sound, intonation, rather than the content. In this case, old age, embodied by the actor in the performance, as an objective phase of a person’s existence between the feeling of death’s inevitability and a direct connection with the will (whim?) of Destiny (God?), creates that sacred sound and tempo-rhythm, combining in itself both the lower (the human wretchedness) and the upper (fatality of the Divine will) registers.

The texts of Krapp as an old man – performed by Juozas Budraitis – belong to the sphere of self-reflection. They are a certain verbal “mirror”, in which, like in a magic “hallway of mirrors,” the same image is numerously multiplied and changed, and the recording is just one of the reflections. The novella about young Krapp’s erotic experiences in a boat is heard from the tape twice (as in the play), and it just proves once again that this whole process is only the “bolero” finale of a person’s life permeated with the vertical of meaning, the “endgame” of a meaningful existence.

Krapp staggers across the acting space between the audience, a table with a tape recorder and a cabinet with drinks, dragging pieces of tangled tape like the “guts” of the needlessly wasted time of his life.  It’s not the only imposed metaphor though; one can not help noticing a black ball on the wall, which looks like the lampshade of a lamp that is never turned on. In the play Krapp also talks about the black ball which he once threw to a white puppy and can not forget…

A little black ball, as the meaning of a life lived in vain, a round rubber toy in the mouth of a playful animal – this is not the “head stone of the corner,” but, rather, a thing that has never belonged to the category of head stones. A powerful symbol embodied in the set design of the play (designer Dainius Li?kevi?ius).

The end of the performance is accompanied by an ironic sentimental piano theme stylized by Gintaras Sodeika – not unlike James Horner’s tune from the movie “Titanic.” The  irony of Beckett’s text, relativity of its images and statements, together with the Freudist base of its content, the unity between the voice, speech and vital sexuality have been rendered by the director and the actor in a way that is readable and understandable.

And a few words from my own experience. Those who have held the hand of a dying man in the split second when he or she bid farewell to this world, could read in their eyes the last three thoughts going through the mind of a dying person: a) deep astonishment at the fact that it is already the end of everything, b) understanding that they should have lived their life in a completely different way; c) the impossibility to change anything. The tragedy of life lies in the junction of those three truths.

If we agree with the statement that every work of art (not necessarily theatre) is a flat pattern of the essential moment of a person’s life, then “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Beckett-Kor?unovas-Budraitis can be understood as an impressive scenic flat pattern of the above-described moment…

Now I am going to turn on my old open reel tape recorded, load it with a “spool” from my own archive and listen to a recording of “Krapp’s Last Tape” made by Po?emio teatras (Undeground Theatre) in 1973… And eat a banana. No, two bananas. Or maybe three. No, I’ll be fine with two. I love bananas![/tab][end_tabset]

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