Fringe Off West End Review

The Trial – Brockley Jack

the trial

 

Somebody must have maligned

Joseph K.

because he was arrested

one morning without having done

anything wrong.

Admittedly, I have never seen a production of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. So perhaps my first encounter shouldn’t have been a condensed sixty minute monologue, translated and adapted from the original. But what Howard Colyer’s interpretation offers, is a bite sized vignette of this classical piece that left me with a taste to explore further.

Ultimately the main question is – just why has Joseph K. been arrested? It’s a question never answered to the audience, nor to K. In the opening scene we find him scrawling his name over the walls of his cell, preoccupied by the day of his thirtieth birthday when he was put under arrest by two guards. His looming execution hangs over. K. is never given a reason why or any details of the accusations against him. He isn’t escorted to a station but instead left to continue his daily routine and await further instruction to visit the court.

Brendan O’Rourke plays the role of Joseph K. in this one man show and vividly paints a picture of characters he encounters and environments he’s placed in. He describes the court as the top of a tenement building ‘remarkable for its complete unremarkability’, dusty, shabby and lacking in air. It all feels very dystopian with a dreamlike quality – intriguing yet unsettling.

Even after his visit to the courts, his arrest remains a mystery, a result of an ambiguous law not really understood by us or by Joseph K. He tries to gain clarification from various members of the court, lawyers and associates but his journey becomes more about understanding than trying to over throw his conviction.

When you read further into the time when Kafka wrote The Trial, it was during the opening months of the war. He was a Jew living in Prague and witnessed horrific acts of persecution as the country fell under the German regime. Jews were threatened by lawless behaviour and by the law too. Men were arrested and sentenced without any real evidence of their crimes but merely based on judgement and hatred. The Trial certainly echoes many of these notions and ribbons are woven throughout Kafka’s piece.

Saul Reid directs Colyer’s cleverly adapted monologue, ensuring it maintains pacey and compelling. Equally O’Rourke gives a strong performance as Joseph K. injecting personality into his characters to ensure the sixty minutes remain engaging. The stripped back quality of both set and style certainly allows the text to shine and Triple Jump productions offer an intriguing and credible adaptation.

The Trial runs until 27th August at the Brockley Jack Studio.

 

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