The Ghost of Krapp by Lorna Irvine

tape spool

My short story, a memorial to Samuel Beckett’s  Krapp’s Last Tape. First published in Ghosts, an Exeunt zine for Halloween, 2017.

He’s there, you know. Cackling. I can feel his tannin-y wine breath on my back just as sure as these red curtains are moving unaided. He’s cackling, peeling bananas from their skins, misery etched onto the contours of his face.

I heard a bottle pop open, and glug-glug-glug, followed by a sigh. Not a sigh of contentment, mind, more one of resignation to his lot.

I still see him, wandering the stage, contemplating his own mortality- can there be a bleaker sight? A ghost in mourning for himself, yet unaware he is no more?

Esteemed veteran Scottish actor Russell Hunter was the first Krapp I ever saw on stage at the Tron theatre, Glasgow, in 2000. His every utterance looked pained, like the sheer forcing out of words was a kind of linguistic constipation. He was grey, almost indistinguishable from the muted set, like life’s travails only made him blend in. A sad clown, camouflaged.

It wasn’t, however, a performance entirely without incident. Prior to Hunter taking to the stage, a man- possibly drunk, delusional, or both- was forcibly ejected by two ushers from the front row of the audience, loudly claiming to be Hunter’s cousin.

Unsure if this was an additional prologue, the crowd were visibly delighted. Beckett would have been too… he had a well-known penchant for slapstick. His Krapp endures; confounds, delights.

He is the ghost of theatre past, present and future, still as relevant as the first day he uncorked, a panstick memento mori, that we too, shall one day un-‘spooooooooool’.

(Lorna Irvine)





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