Review: More Tales From Kafka, York Theatre Royal

20 Nov 2014 @ 3.09 pm
| News

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‘The company makes an incredibly clever use of bodies and space’. Photographs: Michael J Oakes
After last year enthusiastic reception at York St John University, York Theatre Royal stages More Tales From Kafka, the result of the fruitful collaboration between director Juliet Forster and Out Of Character, a York-based theatre company which is producing some of the most thought provoking works revolving around – but not limited to – mental health.

  More Tales From Kafka

  York Theatre Royal

  Until Nov 20

  £10-£12

  More details

The continuation of a previous work about Franz Kafka produced in 2010, the show focuses on a range of lesser known stories from the writer’s rich body of works, such as A Dream, Home-Coming, The Departure and Blumfeld.

Kafka’s characters are trapped in an alienating vicious circle of unexplainable events, incomprehensible requests, empty mechanisms, bureaucratic labyrinths, unanswered quests for explanations and repetitive frustrations.

Adapting such motifs, Out Of Character’s approach to theatre has led to a cutting edge performance work, extremely dense in thematic layers.

The work opens with the narrator (Mark Gowland) surrounded by sleeping characters plagued by agitated dreams.

It’s night time. Individuals in safe beds, under protective sheets are not able to defend themselves from the haunting ghosts of their nightmares. We as audience are invited to watch.

The play then develops through an episodic structure which alternates different stories to the struggle of Joseph K (Christian Foster).

After having been accused by a crowd of judges for an insignificant crime, Joseph K. keeps on escaping from his persecutors, in a space that becomes increasingly claustrophobic, exhausting, torturous.

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‘Enchanting and exhilirating’ – More Tales From Kafka

The script artfully incorporates his Trial misadventure with other stories which share the same sense of terrified alienation: Give It Up!, The Departure, The Vulture, A Dream.

By incredibly clever use of bodies and space the company portrays how the individual is dominated and controlled by suffocating structures, social rules, peer pressure, untouchable institutions, impersonal crowds.

This sense of oppression is created through human walls and shapes that squeeze the individual within their wings.

Pointing fingers, judging eyes, false accusations, and subtle manipulations have been enacted to show the sadistic pleasure the dominant group experiment in mocking the individual.

Figures that in most cases lose any other functionality, to become an institutional void, an empty frame which controls the individual but is yet factitious in its overwhelming power.

Meanwhile other stories in the play focus on inner dynamics as well, translating the same sense of alienation from a social level to internalised complexes and insecurities.

An oppressive sense of solitude in the young man (Wayne Hurton), who dreams of impossible intimacy, is counteracted by the superficiality of social bonds that fail to bring relief to the characters.

Between the empty exchange of friendships that can’t go beyond layers of clothes and skins, and families becoming the estranged shadow of childhood memories, frail ghosts (Christie Barnes) seem the only ones able to penetrate the thick walls of social and individual pretence to get close to the intimate chore of the human soul.

Again, the work of the group has been remarkable in physically recreating the multiple inner voices that inhabit everyone’s mind.

Even with such a range of complex topics, the play is far from dark and hopeless. Out Of Character has managed to keep an ironic, amusing approach to the material, with exhilarating gems, such as the story of Blumfled (Colin Benson).

While the production will delight lovers of Kafka’s work, it’s not necessary to have any knowledge of his stories to enjoy a thought provoking play which will enchant whoever has an interest in the soul and fragility of human beings.