Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Trial, by Franz Kafka, adapted by Nick Gill, the Young Vic; reviewed by Ian Oakley

The first thing that hits you when you enter the Young Vic for their production of The Trial is the set.

It is not easy to describe, but the best way to think of it is as if the Old Bailey was given a re-design by Ikea, with a conveyor belt thrown in as the stage.

As this suggests you realise you are not going to get a cosy night at the theatre.

The production brings the quality of a fevered dream to Kafka’s story of Joseph K, an everyman who wakes up one day to find himself arrested for an unknown crime, whose life collapses under the pressure of the criminal proceedings.

The setting has been relocated from early twentieth century Prague, to a sort of crazed 1970s Britain, think of The Good Life meets Waiting for Godot and you get the idea.

The nature of Joseph K’s predicament, not knowing what - if anything - he has done wrong and his increasingly desperate attempts to escape from the proceedings are inherently surrealist.

But ultimately, Nick Gill’s adaptation of Kafka’s work builds a barrier with the audience rather than involving us in K’s nightmare journey, so that by the end you don’t really care what is happening you just what the nightmare to end.

I fear this is a function of modern young playwrights realising that to get on in their careers they need to appeal to their peers by dazzling with innovative techniques, such as K’s monologues being in poetical child speak, and the concerns of relating to the audience come second.

Perhaps I am being unfair, but that is certainly what it felt like after two hours.

In having said all that, the cast were excellent, in particular Rory Kinnear as K, who spends the whole production on stage, you can almost see his character physically imploding under the pressure.

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