Immediately refreshing is Nick Gill’s interpretation of Kafka’s The Trial: ‘It’s not a parable like 1984, it’s not a criticism of existing or potential terrifying social structure’. So many seek to align Kafka’s novel with big-brother culture, picturing it sat snugly on Julian Assange’s desk next to a cup of coffee. Rather, he maintains that it is ‘more of a study of a bloke than it is a study of the state as a social structure’. Focussing on Kafka’s explorations of psychological guilt in the modern world, his production’s greatest merit is evident in Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of the protagonist, Josef K. Kinnear is the glue of this production, by far its most valuable asset. The acclaimed actor juggled rehearsals for the show alongside filming for the new James Bond film and despite being present on stage for the entirety of the two hours, did not show any signs of tiring. His performance is another reminder of how fine an actor he really is.
Sat at wooden benches, the audience is thrust into the role of an observing jury. Miriam Buether’s stage design is intriguing and the events of the play unfold on a moving conveyor belt. At times this works very well, accompanied by some strong choreography. Alongside Kinnear, Kate O’Flynn generally flourishes as his neighbour Rosa. O’Flynn plays a further five different characters in the production which is nothing short of admirable. However, she performs best as Rosa and initially her conversations with Josef K capture Kafka’s sense of hopeless tragi-comedy.
Unfortunately the production drags on, gently dimming in its initial promise. In fact, it grows a little tedious. One scene, in which Josef K is tattooed is somewhat bewildering. It is accompanied by blaring pop music, which seems out of place with the remainder of the production. It is an ambitious technique but seems like a slightly manufactured way of leaning towards the absurdity of the plot. The production is too long and gradually we lose interest and compassion towards K’s plight. Credit to Nick Gill for embarking on the mammoth task but this production falls short and is ultimately a little disappointing. I would recommend it for Rory Kinnear fans: Kafka fans stick to your dingy apartments and report to the magistrate tomorrow morning.