Monday, 13 February 2012

The Trial


Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
3 stars
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.

The Herald, February 13th 2012
ends

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