reviewer: megan hyland
The Trial is a thrillingly absurd adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel of the same name, adapted by People Zoo Productions. Josef K, honourable citizen and profoundly innocent man, is told on the morning of his birthday that he has been arrested. The audience follows K as he tries to prove his innocence to the unjust and strange legal system that he finds himself entangled in. But not knowing what he stands accused of, and fighting against an unidentified, immeasurable power, how much is his innocence really worth?
William J Holstead stars as the protagonist, displaying remarkable physicality and masterful control, telling the story of one man’s desperation in an emotional and thoroughly committed performance. Holstead acts as a guide for the audience through this peculiar situation that K has found himself in, and as quickly as Holstead has built up the character in the opening scenes, he begins to tear him down, as we see just how far one man will go to prove his innocence. In such a dark and disturbing narrative, however, the rest of the cast provide some much-needed comic relief, all acting in multirole, with Adrian Palmer and Sarah Legg standing out in particular. Palmer’s excellent character acting and Legg’s performance as K’s moralistic and over-sexed landlady are outstanding.
The play itself can only be described as bizarrely entertaining, with well-written and clever dialogue that keeps the audience engaged even despite the nonsensicalness of the plot. The remarkable humour and intrigue that the first act creates outweigh the unusualness of the storyline, and instead supply it with a strange charm. The second act, however, is incredibly intense, with some exceptional performances and gripping scenes that send some powerful messages that are still relevant today.
Director Craig Sanders has created a wonderfully offbeat dark comedy, managing to portray both the nostalgia and relevance of Kafka’s work on the stage. Paired with the intense music of Dennis Tjoik and the simplistic but expressive set design, the effect is a thought-provoking combination of surrealism and farce. These are two things that the play combines effortlessly, transitioning frequently between slapstick humour and highly intense scenes with ease and fluidity. And although the storyline itself is quite non-traditional and perplexing, once the eccentricity of the production itself is embraced, it makes for a captivating and unusually amusing watch.
The Trial is performed as part of PUSH Festival at HOME, Manchester. PUSH Festival runs from 14th January – 28th January 2017 and the full festival brochure is available by clicking here.