An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
Effete No Obstacle.
Monday, 13 February 2012
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
We've all had days like Joseph K. As Franz Kafka's troubled everyman is
shunted from pillar to post in a bureaucracy gone mad on his thirtieth
birthday, it's easy to identify with his nightmare. Blackeyed Theatre's
new production of Steven Berkoff's adaptation sticks pretty close to
its dramatic template, as five actors in black suits and white shirts
with scarlet collar and cuffs move through a series of white painted
door-frames and hollow boxes that map out K's road to nowhere.
The result in Ella Vale's production is a well-studied facsimile of
Berkoff's oeuvre that delivers a kind of street-wise mime that's
clearly not to be messed with. As Simon Wegrzyn's K fights to clear his
name regarding an un-named crime he's not aware of having committed, an
entire society based on sexual repression and corruption in high places
is laid bare. Gradually, though, as K moves in ever-decreasing circles
getting nowhere fast, the endless round of clandestine encounters with
troubled grotesques who distract him from his bank clerk's desk begin
to resemble some crazy magical-realist dream, like Lindsay Anderson's O
Lucky Man! as engineered by The Numbskulls.
At time there's an inherent musicality to proceedings, as the wordless
chorales that illustrate and add atmosphere become dissonant little
symphonies of big city chaos. If some of the other stylistic moves look
dated, they nevertheless retain an anti-authoritarian edge that came
out of a sense of an east European iconoclasm that sought real
alternatives. There are real personalities too in Blackeyed's ensemble,
from Wegrzyn's suitably blank portrayal of K to Derek Ellwood's
incontinent lawyer and Nadia Morgan's array of damaged damsels. Turning
thirty has rarely looked such hard work.