Misterman / Krapp

It's a strange thing to cram two heavy-hitting plays at two different theatres into one day. It's even stranger when you walk away feeling those plays were fortuitously meant to be seen together.

On Sunday, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (my first time doing so) and made our way to St. Ann's Warehouse for the matinee of Misterman. I knew little about the play, only that it had been lauded in Galway and, like Krapp, was a one-act play, a one-man show.

Cillian Murphy went hell-for-leather in this role; leaping around the huge stage, catapulting himself into walls, flinging Jammie Dodgers and Fanta. The audio was cacophonous, the lighting berserk. The story hilarious and poignant, sympathetic and mad.

Later that evening we made our way to BAM for Krapp's Last Tape. Beckett, of course does not go in for that much racket. It feels like a full three minutes of silence before Krapp even moves or speaks at the beginning of the play. Beckett wants you to get comfortable in silence. And when he breaks it, he does so slowly, laboriously. Krapp draws out single words, replays and repeats them and then leaves you in silence again.

But while one is loud and frenetic and the other full of pregnant silence, while one stage is vast and the other confined, in Krapp there are perfect miniatures of Misterman's physical slapstick; a banana skin slip, a play at the edge of stage-light. And like Thomas in Misterman, Krapp interacts only with reel-to-reel tapes. Also, of course, both are Irish men with Irish mammies and broken Irish hearts.

Both Krapp and Thomas are caught reliving things, including parents' deaths, and trying to find a better way out; trying to find, or create, salvation. It seems Krapp does so of his own volition while it has perhaps been a punishment inflicted on Thomas, but that is in not fully clear. Still, in spite of all that trying, the well-studied voice parts and well-catalogued recordings, both are determined to fail, to descend into anger and despair and ruin.

By the end of the day I was spent and elated. And I've been reliving both plays since I got back, processing the parts and how they seem to bob and weave, how Beckett and Walsh differ as writers, in age and time and style, and how Krapp and Thomas differ too and yet can be seen as distorted mirror images of each other.

And I've been thinking about all the experiences we manufacture and plan for ourselves and how something unexpected can still happen. Sometimes these are the very things we're tempted to pass up; they can seem like a lot to take on and you can convince yourself you have enough. But my more-is-more whim created a day of theatre I'm not likely to ever forget. I have no idea how I'll follow these two acts..

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