"Dark, urgent and sinisterly sexy"
by Elizabeth Eyre for remotegoat on 19/09/11

Shaban Arifi's new adaptation of Kafka's, The Trial, is dark, urgent and sinisterly sexy.

The Trial tells the story of Joseph K, a man arrested on his 30th birthday, for an unspecified crime. The pacing of the arrest sequence was a little too fast to follow. Generally the ensemble work together exceptionally well, smoothly transporting you from one thing to the next and, of course K's arrest is bewildering, but the day I was watching it became bewildering because I could not keep up with what was being said, which was frustrating.

That said the production soon relaxes into a well-paced presentation of K's strange experiences. The decision to have K's lawyer, Huld, played by a woman, in this case the indomitable Miranda Wilson, who controls those around her by her sheer presence, creates an interesting tone: her manipulation of K becomes part of her powerful femininity. Huld's strong female presence, coupled with narration by Lucia Edwards, who also plays K's lover, a sultry dancer called Elsa, gives a strong sense of female manipulation, which lends an impenetrable glamour to the relentless way K is kept in the dark. Celine Abrahams is charming as Leni who appears to show K a softer side but is ultimately unknowable, loyal only to Huld.

Tom Barratt makes his striking professional debut as Joseph K, the man awaiting trial. His performance is extraordinary detailed, his responses always palpable and human. He is often still, but never vacant: his K is always thinking, trying to understand, trying to plan ahead, bringing a new urgency to a role that many of the audience will be familiar with. As K begins to see the hopelessness of his situation he sits staring into the audience and as desperation sinks in, with an almost imperceptible adjustment he somehow seems to be sinking too.

The cast are strong across the board, Angus Dunican is outstanding as the deranged Block, a corn merchant who has been awaiting trial for five years and. Disconcertingly Dunican manages to make Block cringing and menacing at the same time. There is also high quality work from actors filling various smaller roles, Artan B Doyle, Nathan Cross and Jade Alexander are delightfully odd as mental patients and Ally Mackie's brief appearance as the sad, vulnerable laundrette, eerily humming Don McLean's 'Vincent' is haunting.

Theatre Collection recreate Kafka's nightmarish world with style and economy and the result is an extremely atmospheric production where the tension fills the air of the intimate upstairs space at the Lord Stanley. Slick, interesting and unpredictable, this is an exciting piece of theatre, which I urge you to go and see.

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