Review: Joseph K

ZoƩ Barnes 4 December 2016

Joseph K is a funny and energetic play with a strong cast. However, it was let down by certain aesthetic and directorial decisions and a rushed ending, never quite reaching the promised climax. This contemporary adaptation was interesting in its relevance and became increasingly compelling as the ideas presented were more keenly developed, but didn’t feel quite as dry or cutting as Kafka’s original.

All the actors played well, but multi-roleing exposed weaknesses in certain actors. Adam Mirsky and Christian Hines were an excellent comic duo, perfectly navigating the ineptitude of Gabriel and Nathan, and the perverse world of Ian and Adam. Jamie Robson was an excellent choice for Joseph K, but suffered for not being directed as well as he could have been, making a huge leap from irritation to full-blown paranoia at the end rather than slowly building up to it. A few stumbled words did not particularly matter. Beth Hindhaugh was good: her six year intern was one of the highlights of the production, but her performance needed a little more confidence. A little more variation in physicalisation and vocalisation of her different roles would have helped.

Lack of a general sense of threat or climax meant that the overriding effect of the play was simply humorous, rather than hard-hitting or thoughtful. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but some of the humour was a little hit and miss, with cheap jokes, such as typing too long at a computer, that felt clichéd. The mixture of naturalistic and stylised motifs, acting-wise and aesthetically, also jarred slightly. Joseph had a gorgeous tie, but overall certain costume choices were strange, and it can’t entirely be blamed on the need for costumes that could be used for multi-roling. The set suffered similarly. A plastic curtain on a rail looked silly, though the intentions were clear. The entire set was over-cluttered, and with more inspired direction and lighting, wouldn’t have needed to be.

The final problem is that, at some point, the audience just gives up any willingness to care. Although this may also, of course, be an interesting social point as to the way society in general is willing to turn a blind eye to bureaucratic injustices, such a point could have been made differently. The characters started feeling too inane to serve any point and, as they rushed around the stage like duracell bunnies, the desire to have some of whatever they appeared to be on took over the desire to know what was going to happen next. The inevitable ending feels a little drawn out, and does not entirely compliment the tone set by the rest of the production. Although Jamie Robson acted very well, it would have been better had the director not allowed him a bow at the end. The sight of his static body as the audience filed out might have injected a needed footnote to the tragedy, futility and menace of the society presented.

Joseph K is good fun, full of laughs and very energetically presented by a talented cast. A good way to spend an evening, but don’t go in expecting the unexpected, since it doesn't quite live up to its potential in this regard.