"Dark Disturbing and Compelling Drama"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 13/01/19

Apparatus a new play by Ross Dinwiddy currently playing at the White Bear in Kennington is a close adaptation of Franz Kafka’a short story In a Penal Colony. The visitor known as the Traveller has come to the penal colony on an isolated island to witness an execution. The officer explains to him in great and loving detail the construction and operation of a gruesome torture machine which was designed by her beloved previous Commandant as a way of inflicting a painful and extended punishment appropriate to the crime. The Condemned Man is bought in and as his punishment is about to begin the Officer confides to the Traveller that she believes her position and the whole process of sentencing and execution to which she is so committed is under threat from the new Commandant.

The plot is classic Kafka: a disturbing vision of an autocratic, unsympathetic system operating within its own perverted logic. It is simply staged in the White Bear’s simple performance space with the audience on two sides. The dominant prop is the converted hospital type trolley with restraints to hold the victim in place during his execution. The other parts of the execution apparatus are graphically described by the Officer but, perhaps fortuitously, left to the audience’s imagination.

Most of the dialogue falls to Emily Carding in her role as the Officer. She has to deliver almost all of the text of Kafka’a original story. Dressed in grey uniform with short cropped hair she looked every part of the severe prison officer. But her words were surprisingly soft as she described with admiration the execution machine and the executions that she had witnessed and her evident distress at the prospect that she would no longer be able to continue what she clearly considered to be an honourable calling. Matt Hastings played the role of The Traveller in crumpled linen suit showing his evident displeasure and discomfort throughout. Perhaps the most difficult role in the play fell to Luis Amalia as the Condemned Man, with no words to speak, he had to depict an uncomprehending victim while spending most of his time strapped to the execution trolley in various states of bewilderment and discomfort. Maximus Polling played the Soldier. The acting throughout was a high order and the writing and the direction maintained a strong suspense of suspense and threat throughout the hour of the performance. The story has a dramatic twist at the end.

This is a compelling piece of theatre but not for the sensitive. It includes nudity.

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