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The Foxrock Foundation presents



Photo by Dixie Sheridan


Writer: Michael Laurence


Director: George Demas


Tristan Bates Theatre


22 November – 22 December 2010





A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

If you’re reading this review, chances are you’ve heard of a certain gentleman by the name of Samuel Beckett. An icon of theatre, the playwright is credited with some of the best pieces of drama in theatrical history. Studied in schools and a source of inspiration for present and future generations, Beckett is without doubt a pillar of contemporary theatre. It therefore doesn’t come as a shock that an organisation like the Foxrock Foundation has been set up purely to preserve and promote Beckett through performances of his plays, with the late writer’s blessings to guide it. Fortunately, we can thank the Foxrock Foundation and Tristan Bates Theatre for bringing a new play to London, (finally!), the subject of this review.

Krapp, 39 is the brainchild of American actor and writer Michael Laurence who, after an incredibly successful run off-Broadway, brings his one-man show to Covent Garden. Those of you with a love for Beckett will already have noticed that the title is derived from one of Beckett’s own plays. Laurence plays a version of himself, a struggling actor still trying to find his place in the world. On the eve of his thirty-ninth birthday, Laurence has decided to recreate Beckett’s play by recording an audio diary of every birthday in his life, with a view to continue doing so until he turns sixty-nine. With this plan firmly set in his mind, the actor begins to look back on his life, through conversations with friends and memories of the past.

Despite the obvious homage, the first thing that jumped out at me whilst watching this ninety-minute show is that there didn’t need to be a previous knowledge of Beckett’s original play. As someone who has never read or seen the play, I still found myself getting fully engrossed with the subject matter and drawn into the production. Credit for that goes simply to one person – Michael Laurence. In a performance that shifts beautifully between self-deprecation and blind optimism, Laurence is able to shape and portray a character that is at once hilarious and pitiful. From his first few moments on stage eating a banana, to his ending line in a terrible Irish accent, he is a joy to watch. Making this comment on a one-man show might seem stupid, but the play definitely rests on his shoulders – without Laurence’s unique comic timing and body language, this piece probably would have failed. It needed him to make it the success that it was, and that’s what this was – a success.

It was very evident that every aspect of the production was meticulously planned. The script was absolutely fantastic, using exposition only for comic effect leaving the drama to unfold with more subtlety and understatement. Witty one-liners keep the pace up and, though the jokes are sometimes too American to properly translate to a London audience, they don’t take away from the intelligence of the writing. Add to that a very assured use of the space, with props and lighting expertly thought out, and you have a piece that had little to fault. And, again, it is the performance that holds everything together.

I have always had a love for one-man shows – when the attention is placed on a performer who has complete control over their work, the piece brings out an intimacy that isn’t found with a bigger cast. This was definitely the case here, and it was genuinely a joy to watch. So if you like one-man shows like me, or you’re intrigued by a performance paying homage to Beckett, or if you are simply in need of a good show for your cash, this ticks all the boxes. If it hasn’t been made clear already, I loved Krapp, 39. You will too.




Photo by Dixie Sheridan


Tickets: £13 / £10 concessions

22 November – 22 December: 7.30pm   (No performance on Sundays)

Tristan Bates Theatre
 1A Tower Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Box Office: 020 7240 6283










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