SAMUEL Beckett’s soul-searching Krapp’s Last Tape is billed as a dark comedy. Well, it is definitely dark.

Krapp’s desk is painted black, and so is his bin, his books, his tape boxes, his chair, his lonesome overhead lampshade. His clothing, from Steptoe waistcoat to scuffed, unpolished shoes, is black too, likewise his humour, and beneath his blancmange of grey hair he looks in blacker mood still.

You have plenty of time to study such details in Mark Walters’ deathly design. Kenneth Alan Taylor’s Krapp is going about his daily grind in a cocoon of gloom, so enervated that he probably couldn’t be bothered to look up the meaning of ennui.

Everything is a drag, whether pulling one leg across the floor to keep up with the other or methodically shuffling his way around his desk as Krapp scrapes his keys along the perimeter. Unlocking a drawer, he takes out a banana – an act of medical defiance we learn later – and consumes it with rare glee, only to slip subsequently on the discarded skin.

It has been that kind of day: a day to match his name. To this point, Krapp has said nothing but Taylor’s lugubrious looks have said everything, as silently expressive as a mime artist.

The first voice you will hear is that of Krapp, recorded 30 years earlier on his now cumbersome, old-fashioned tape machine. Listening again to his past disappointments in love, writing and his younger self, Krapp is pooling his thoughts for his last tape, but the words won’t come. “Nothing to say,” he curses into the microphone, disturbed anew by the inadequacy of a wasted life.

He is 69, an old, drink-decayed 69, but younger than Taylor by two years. The Nottingham Playhouse panto dame first played him six years ago, then again in 2006, and this latest revival under the direction of Matt Aston will be Krapp’s last hour for him. You sense it matters all the more to this esteemed theatre veteran.

The prospect of performing in York was the deal clincher, returning Taylor to The Studio where he had excelled last year as fading, bitchy pantomime dame Harold Thropp in Twinkle Little Star.

The ravaged Krapp is another lonely grump but, unlike Thropp, he will not rage against the dying of the light, and Taylor already has the look of a ghost by the close of play.

So, is it a comedy? Certainly Krapp’s tale of woe is not a tragedy, but Taylor’s bravura performance finds comic gold in silence and beauty in Beckett’s bleak poetry, while eking out the last rites of humour from the dingiest corners of Krapp’s self-loathing.

Krapp’s Last Tape, The Studio, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568