Influential and highly-regarded author Franz Kafka is brought to the stage in these four tales exploring what it means to be human. Writers Peter Farrah and Rob Johnston have updated and injected new life into these tales for Breathe Out Theatre.
Written as four two-handers, over the course of the evening Katherine Godfrey and Adam Urey inhabit a diverse number of roles ranging from a cutthroat agent through to an abusive husband and even an ape! Godfrey and Urey flourish in what is a technically, and emotionally demanding set of performances.
I’m not overly familiar with the work of Franz Kafka, but I do understand that his work has been hugely influential on others with its themes of conflict and entrapment, and is also very surreal. Kafkaesque certainly touches on these themes throughout its four tales.
‘Interview with the Academy’, the first tale, introduced this bizarre world in an imaginative way – with Urey playing an ape! There was exceptional make-up from Cara Frost, especially on Urey’s hands and his ape-like gait immensely helped to sell this idea to the audience. The overarching theme of change and metamorphosis oozed through this play as the idea of an ape kept in captivity having developed human traits was contrasted with the interviewee turning the tables on the interviewer.
Following this was the intense ‘Men and their Atrocities’ which explored the leaders and the led. Could Godfrey’s servant to the unseen Master really be partisan to the nefarious activities going on? The servant’s blinkered view of the world was played with the upmost conviction by a strong Godfrey during this thought provoking tale.
Perhaps the most harrowing, yet normal tale of the four was ‘The Work’. The monotonous sound of a hammer on metal rang out at the start and end of this dark tale emphasizing the unfinished nature of (man’s) work. Godfrey’s wife is on the cusp of a classical singing career, but Urey’s embittered husband hasn’t completed his unseen work and resolves to stop her. What follows is a electric exchange that touches on a number of universal themes most likely to resonate as Urey’s domineering husband makes the audience feel uncomfortable.
Concluding on a lighter note, ‘Selling the Hunger Artist’ looked at modern day bear-baiting in the form of a conversation between a Hunger Artist, starving himself for the entertainment of others and a harassed agent looking for the next big thing. Faced with a choice between the Hunger Artist and a dancing, urinating dog, who will win out in a world with such a short attention span?
Good use was made of the limited space to differentiate each play from one another with some brave artistic decisions taken, especially with Adam Urey’s ape in the first tale. Overall, Kafkaesque is an entertaining, if fittingly bizarre set of pieces that provide much food for thought.
The Fiction Stroker gives Kafkaesque three strokes out of five:
Kafkaesque continues its tour at University College in Oldham on November 1 and 2. Further information can be found on Breathe Out Theatre’s website here.