Review: Krapp’s Last Tape (Theatre Passe Muraille)

This one-man show is “haunting” and “resonating”, at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

Krapp’s Last Tape is a short play by Samuel Beckett about an old man looking back on a life lived alone and less-than-well. It isn’t the sort of thing you want to watch by yourself after being cancelled on twice, but that was my situation this past weekend. My friends missed out though, because Theatre Passe Muraille’s production makes for a spectacular and deeply intimate show.

Without a doubt, this is the best use of the Passe-Muraille’s Backspace that I’ve seen. Normally, the shows I see there come from small production companies that would want for a larger performance space if it were available to them. Here, Krapp’s Last Tape makes great use of the backspace’s intimacy.

In the tiny theatre, the audience members are practically stacked on top of each other and the show’s atmosphere becomes near-claustrophobic. Director Mac Fyfe’s staging keeps the titular character up front and close for the majority of the show.

When Krapp drops a banana peel on the floor, it’s a bit gross. When his eyes shimmer with tears as he revisits his most intimate memories, it feels deeply personal. Intimate is the best word I can think of to describe Krapp’s Last Tape. By the end, I felt that I’d truly shared a moment with Beckett’s tragic character at his most vulnerable.

The sole performer in the show, Bob Nasmith, gives a standout performance as Krapp. Most of the play is the actor listening to a recording of himself, and I can’t think of another show where I’ve watched an actor sit in silence for so long. Nasmith had my full attention throughout. When he’d stare out into the audience with longing regret, it was one of the most haunting things I’ve seen onstage.

I feel like the character of Krapp was written to be a bit gruffer than Nasmith’s delivery, but there’s a hint of gentle sweetness he brings to the role that’s very welcome. He deviates ever-so-slightly from the typical depressed alcoholic you’d expect Krapp to be, and I think that makes the character more sympathetic for those who wouldn’t empathize with him as much.

No show in recent memory has resonated with me like Krapp’s Last Tape. I teared up a fair bit, and I was left thinking about it as I went to sleep and the morning after. It’s still kicking around my head now.


  • Krapp’s Last Tape is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) until January 28, 2018.
  • Showtimes are Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 pm, with a Sunday (2 pm) matinee.
  • Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the box office.
  • Run time is 45 minutes.
  • Audience Advisory: Contains crude language and mature themes.

Photo of Bob Nasmith provided by the company.