Edinburgh Fringe 2019
An “adaptation of Kafka’s last, unfinished novel. Far from home, K. struggles to unlock the secrets of the castle. He wages a war of wits against the elusive official Klamm, certain that it is only by standing face to face with the divine authority of the castle that he will ever find his place within this strange society.”
This play, based on Kafka’s last and unfinished novel has promise when in the first few minutes a puppet denoting the journey of a main character K. in a blizzard appears. For the rest of the play – except for two more very short appearances of the puppet – this character, in a bowler hat and overcoat, is played by a performer.
A cast of three male and three female performers play all the characters with dialogue and detailed speeches and they also take turns to move around a versatile framed set piece on wheels that effectively becomes a doorway to the mysterious castle, and more. Kafka’s story is interesting and they they play either the same character or several, switching quickly, according to the story line.
This ensemble is well-rehearsed, and they move swiftly into place during efficient transitions. Costumes are simple yet effective. Other than the character in the long overcoat and hat, the other five performers wear a combination of beige shirt and brown corduroy trousers and add other articles, such as a shawl, or a cloth cap, for more specificity of character. The minimal costuming is visual in it’s choice of colours and textures and imaginative.
Props are also well chosen and are consistent with the costumes in colour and style, such as several well worn characterful leather suitcases that the puppet walks on through the snow fall and blizzard. The performers project volume-wise in the space and can be heard from each area of the theatre. Of note is Gabrielle Nellis-Pain, the performer playing Frieda, who has qualities of listening, vocal variety and a sense of interacting throughout her performance when talking to another character. With more of these attributes shared by the rest of the ensemble the play could move to the next level.
The production would benefit from editing and fine tuning to rethink the performance and storytelling styles they want to work with and then improve these skills – so that the hints of imagination and skill that are present in this production could come through more fully. For example, the puppetry is interesting and oh so short, and in one of the few times the puppet appears walking sturdily in the snow, a character is speaking a long speech extremely loudly and without nuance at the front of the stage, which is distracting, when the audience is focused on the puppet. This leads one to wonder whether the speech is not necessary if the script and storytelling is more developed. All in all, the ensemble is keenly involved and this is a good start for this young company.