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The Fire in Him: John Hurt Sets Krapp's Record Straight

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If there is a lesson to be learned from the post-curtain talk between John Hurt — who has just finished a limited run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater in Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” — and philosopher Simon Critchley, it’s that if you throw philosophy at an actor, he’ll throw it right back.

The two sat down — on the very stage where Krapp obsessively listens to the tapes of his past life — on Dec. 15th, and engaged in a gentle duel of words about exactly how to interpret Beckett’s intense 55-minute play.

Hurt began disarmingly by saying, “I’ve always felt that very clever people had to play Beckett,” people with “strings of letters after their names.” 

And Critchley’s, “What do you think this play is about?” drew the response, “I was hoping you were going to tell me that!”

But when pressed, it was clear that Hurt has very strong ideas about the play, ones that come from inside the experience, from his views on Krapp’s life choice (to abandon love for a life of the mind), to exactly what those bananas mean.

“I’m a huge believer in the word,” he maintained. “I’m here to serve Beckett, and that’s absolutely all I’m here for.”

Bon Mots:

Hurt on interviewers: "The one thing that all interviewers want to know — they have about six questions, I reckon — and all of them are, 'How do you act?' … couched in different ways."

Hurt on Krapp: "It’s an intensely private play. If Krapp for a second thought that all you wonderful people were out there watching him … he would be devastated."

Hurt on Krapp’s tape: "[That spool] means so much, doesn’t it? That’s a man who loves the sound of language, and he chose that image — it’s lovely."