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Kafka

4
Seen at the Finborough Theatre
By Derek - 15th Jun 2024

Written and performed by Jack Klaff, Kafka, is a solo performance expressing Kafka’s life and work. Klaff presents an enormous cast of Kafka’s friends, lovers, fans and commentators, including Alan Bennett, Bertolt Brecht, Max Brod, Albert Camus, Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Melvyn Bragg, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Albert Einstein, Hermann Kafka, an ape, a hound and a speaking poster.

Using "My name is..." or "I am.." he flits from one to another, sometimes for only a sentence, sometimes telling a full story. On a black stage, with only a stool, his performance is full of bravado and exemplary timing.

The writing is erudite, esoteric, and mercilessly satirises the pomposity and pretension of some of Kafka's commentators . One speech with a list of increasingly ludicrous, bombastic terms was memorable but instantly forgotten. The frequent humour is like lightning flashes - instantaneous and transitory.

He draws on many of Kafka’s works including Metamorphosis, The Trial, Amerika, The Castle, and his letters, diaries, and fragments. Interesting that he explains that in Metamorphosis, Gregor is not transformed into an insect, as in the usual translation, but "ungeheueres Ungeziefer" - monstrous vermin - non-specific so as to leave it to the reader's imagination. There is so much information in the script that challenges the audience to keep up.

I am not sure how entertaining the show would be unless you know something of Kafka and his work, but it is a ferocious performance. So many characters add depth to the writing, which weaves together all this material until returning to the initial admonishment "Hush!"

Derek Benfield


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