19–31 August, 20.00
Kafka’s bizarre but illustrious novel is adapted for stage by Steven Berkoff and performed by Cambridge University’s Amateur Dramatic club for the festival. The expressive and inventive troupe will keep you entertained but the script adds little to the tale. Though it’s always fun to sample edgy drama, if it’s Kafka you want, the books are a better bet.
The style is melodramatic and a veritable circus of performers; four main parts and a skilful chorus, writhe and swing about the stage to tell the famous story of Gregor Samsa. The young man awakes one day from a toilsome life to find himself a giant insect, the reactions of his family and consequences for all of their lives then unfold in tragic sequence.
The set – a scaffolding archway, is genius. The lithe black bodies of the chorus wend and wind around it to great effect. From amplifying the retching voice of the insect-Gregor, to creating the sounds and shapes of a summer’s day, the body-tightened group show great skill. The lead roles were, for me, a little too cartoonish and in some ways the script trivialised a sad and profound novel.
The story is dark, and the setting is a small-town family household, so why the director decided to portray it using freak-show aesthetics and atmosphere is puzzling. The acting is not top-notch, though the chorus really impressed being both physically and dramatically versatile. One got the slight impression that someone, somewhere was fulfilling a dream combining two disparate fetishes – Kafka and the Circus. In one sense this makes a heady hybrid that whisks the hour by, but in another it detracts somewhat from the glorious original.