The Trial

Tue 29th January – Sat 2nd February 2013

reviews

Jessica Piette

at 02:52 on 30th Jan 2013

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I absolutely love Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, with its suffocating sense of inevitability and nightmarish representation of a bureaucracy-mad world, yet this production failed to maintain the appropriate atmosphere throughout. There seemed to be a definite understanding of the novel as a whole, along with an attempt to dramatise it in a lively way, yet the piece lacked the drive it needed to come together smoothly, and was completely over cut. After an uncomfortable start where a few lines were stumbled over however, it began to pick up momentum, and leading role ‘K’ clearly became more comfortable on stage, though unfortunately he remained self-aware throughout the rest of his performance.

There were humorous moments where the absurdity was played out very well – notably when K is at his wits end, having been told that he has been ‘summoned’ when he is under the impression that he has fallen out of favour – and I really enjoyed Block’s performance, along with that of the two smoking men, whose strangeness contributed perfectly to the first mock-trial scene. The Inspector’s lines were delivered with confidence and control, and Huld’s coughs and trembling hands were delightful. Titorelli’s flamboyancy added colour and was wonderfully energetic, but her accent varied a few too many times. The stage area was used interestingly, with the back drop being drawn back to completely change the acoustics, creating a sinister echo chamber in the final scene. However, perhaps the stage could have been put to more use; in such an intimate space, it felt as if the actors were keeping to themselves.

I feel as if too much was made of the court scene, yet not enough of the sexual relationship between Leni and K. Some scenes were shocking and disturbing to see on stage (which I’m sure was the intention) and a large part of the novel’s subtlety was lost. Somehow the directors did not manage to extrapolate the novel’s overriding claustrophobic feel, and it lacked dynamism. It was clearly under-rehearsed and moments which should have had the audience in fits of laughter were rushed, whereas the use of monologue failed to create any real emotional connection between actor and audience. Though it was not disappointing, the play was all too evidently an amateur production.

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Alice Coombes Huntley

at 10:00 on 30th Jan 2013

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Breaking Boundaries' adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel was something of a trial to watch. The 50 minute production was patchy, confusing and disappointing. The play was billed as ‘absurd and darkly comic’ but ultimately was neither surreal nor a successful black comedy.

The beginning, with a solitary figure on a dark stage and piano ‘lounge’ music playing, seemed promising. However, while the audience were left waiting for the play to start and staring at the stage for a good five minutes, it didn’t really create any kind of atmosphere. This was probably not helped by the intimate size of the Alma Tavern Theatre and the decision of several members of the audience to continue conversations they had begun at the bar downstairs.

The use of mime and highly-stylised make-up to differentiate the cast was fairly effective at showing the production to be deliberately surreal but attempts at synchronised, mimed actions were somewhat marred by the fact not all the actors were in time with each other. Similarly, various actors forgot and mis-delivered lines at various points. That said, some of them are clearly very talented but were limited by the choreographed style of the majority of the scenes.

The production was fairly faithful to the plot of the novel, but peforming it all in just under an hour meant that it moved very quickly, lurching between scenes. While this may have been intended to appear surreal and create a rapidly-building tension, it left me feeling confused and not particularly interested by the events happening on stage. It wasn’t bizarre enough to be truly absurd and just made it hard to understand what was going on. Bar the rapid pace of the show, there was no subtly increasing tension so it was hard to really care about Joseph K’s struggles. It certainly didn’t break any boundaries and the ‘absurd’ elements of the piece were poorly-executed and nothing new; it suffered from being both overly ambitious in its reach and never committing to being truly surreal or shocking.

The whole thing felt like a well-intentioned idea that somehow failed to transfer to an entertaining, intriguing or even coherent performance. Short, but certainly not sweet, by the end of it I was left feeling confused and mildly irritated. What could have been a challenging, intriguing piece of theatre was instead an uneven and unsatisfactory performance which is highly forgettable.

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