Prague Fringe 2013

Kafka and Son

Alon Nashman

Genre: Drama



Low Down

Kafka writes a letter to his tyrannical father which is at once damning and forgiving. (Based on an actual letter written by Kafka to his father.)


Charles Bukowski said it is the ‘little things’ which drive one to distraction, not the big issues like Death and War. Kafka and son is about Kafka’s self analysis after a lifetime of seemingly inconsequential events which result in him feeling profoundly insignificant as a human being. He sits down to write a letter (one which may or may not ever be delivered) to his Father; the person he believes to be the prime cause of his own crippling insecurities.  

Max Brod originally published Kafka’s letter to his Father alongside a collection of Kafka’s fictional short stories as opposed to his autobiographical material. The veteran Toronto stage actor Alon Nashman illustrates this curious decision wonderfully by recreating a very real Franz in suitably surreal surroundings. Nashman’s sensitive portrayal of Kafka is mesmeric, as is his frequent transformation into the overbearing Father to whom Franz is writing. The minimalistic industrial props on the stage become a tool for taking us away from the admonishing letter and help to conjure the dreamlike/nightmarish images in Kafka’s imagination.  Throughout the play Na Pradle’s large stage is used to create a number of different scenarios; a clever use of lighting and manipulable metalic furniture make this an entertaing and vital part of our metaphysical journey.

One cannot really fault the writing as it comes directly from the mind of the great man himself, but it must be noted that Alon Nashman’s adaptation flows brilliantly.  Within the dark and claustrophbic setting we are reminded of the common themes in Kafka’s short stories and novels.  This is about a caged man seeking freedom through literature.  You can sense the delight Nashman takes in performing this piece, from the poetic physical elements down to the sweetly syllabic, nervous annunciation of a terrified son’s words. And as for his metamorphosis into the Father, one walks away wondering if this character was based on someone in Nashman’s own life; the sardonic mimicry being so bitter and astute.

As a result of seeing the play I was inspired to re-read Kafka’s letters and to find out more about Alon Nashman. 

Whether or not you are familiar with Kafka’s writings this is one tremendous solo performance piece you don’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

After the show, Mr Nashman made a short, touching speech about performing this play in the protagonist’s home town; a dream of his since first conceiving the idea for ‘Kafka and Son’. Nice.