Merlin star Richard Wilson has been working as an associate director at Sheffield Theatres for three years and he is taking to the stage at last in Samuel Beckett’s one-man play, Krapp’s Last Tape.
Richard, who became a big favourite with TV audiences as the grouchy Victor Meldrew in the sitcom One Foot in the Grave, is currently appearing at the Crucible Studio, where he has successfully directed several plays himself.
Richard has championed new writing during his time at Sheffield Theatres, directing Straight, Love Your Soldiers, The Pride, That Face and Lungs.
However, Krapp’s Last Tape dates back to 1958. The one-man play sees Krapp sitting alone on his 69th birthday, listening to a tape recording he made 30 years earlier.
The director is Polly Findlay, returning to Sheffield after directing A Taste of Honey at the Crucible last year.
Richard said: “It’s one of the things we have been talking about for a while. I thought it was time I did some acting here.
“It’s quite a challenge. I’m very pleased to be getting acting at the Crucible. There’s not much to learn but it’s quite tough and it’s fascinating.”
He added: “Most people consider it to be Beckett’s finest play. It’s amazing what Beckett crams into it.
“I’ve been asked to do it several times. I looked at it and thought, alright. I never realised it was quite so dense.
“On the one hand it’s a very surreal farce, almost. On the other hand, it’s a deep examination of loneliness and death.”
Richard said he had performed Beckett’s work twice before. “I used to say that his play Waiting for Godot is one of the finest plays in the English language.” He now thinks that Krapp’s Last Tape is even better.
“What I liked about Beckett, I remember when I was doing Godot at the Traverse in Edinburgh, is that everyone’s got their own idea of what it’s about and people after the show always talked about that.
“I think Godot is very accessible. There’s a lot of clowning in it. Krapp is less accessible but it is a remarkable piece of writing.
“The last person I saw doing it was Harold Pinter and he was very good.”
Richard has been fascinated to find some offbeat personal connections to the play.
“I have two things that connect me to the play. Bananas feature heavily and I have a banana every day for my breakfast.
“The other is there’s a character in the play mentioned called Effi. My mother was called Effi. Her name was Euphemia Colquhoun. It just reminds me of her every time I say Effi. I wouldn’t have dared call her that!
“She was a very funny woman and she died when she was young, aged 57.”
Richard said he is excited that his director Polly and designer Alex Lowde have come up with a spectacular set for the play.
Without wanting to spoil the surprise for the audience, he said: “It’s an installation and I don’t think it’s ever been done before. If it works it should be very telling.”
Although Richard is acting at the Crucible for the first time, he certainly has no plans to end his association with the theatres. “I love Sheffield. I like this job.”
He joked: They’ve lost the two other associate directors (Paul Miller and Lyndsey Turner, who have gone on to other jobs) but they won’t get rid of me that easily.”
He does have other jobs, however, and is just finishing off filming a travel series for ITV that will be seen in the autumn.
In it, Richard tours the country in a 1968 Daimler, using the 1930s Shell motoring guides that were edited by poet Sir John Betjeman.
He’s also off to the seaside this summer, appearing at Frinton Summer Theatre as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Krapp’s Last Tape is currently at the Crucible Studio and runs until July 19.
Free talkbacks will take place after the 7.45pm performances tomorrow, Wednesday July 2, Thursday 10 and Thursday 17.
For tickets, visit the Crucible box office, call 0114 249 6000 or go online at www.shefieldtheatres.co.uk