Given the UK’s current age of austerity it’s not surprising that theatre has recently revived a number of works that consider controlling governments and a new adaptation of Kafka’s novel The Trial at the Young Vic is definitely an example.
Josef K is the Vice-President of a bank who is arrested at home for an unspecified crime on his 35th birthday. Assured there has been a mistake Josef is initially released and told he can return to work, but as he becomes more embroiled in the unknowable systems of The Court he finds his life overtaken by the case and becomes increasingly desperate to work out what he could have done.
The Young Vic’s space has been transformed once again, by designer Miriam Buether, the auditorium resembles a courtroom made of raked orange and brown boxes. In the centre is a large keyhole which lifts to reveal a long conveyor belt running through the centre of the room on which the play takes place. This gives an interesting and rather quirky method of bringing set pieces and props into the scenes, although I can’t help but feel that they missed a trick with the curtain call and that it could be used to greater effect right through to the very end.
The overall look and feel though is a kaleidoscope of surreal colours and characters.
One of the major difficulties of this play is the alienation of the audience, instead they are turned into impassive observers. The dialogue is bizarre, K’s monologues are mostly strange ramblings, a frequent stream of consciousness.
Kinnear’s Josef transforms from a man who spirals from mild concern and confusion to utter obsession and panic as his entire life is given over to solving his case. There is a lot of humour in the early scenes but watching his physical and emotional disintegration is the key to this production.
Kate O’Flynn impressively plays six different women with distinct roles and personalities.
Alongside these two Richard Cant is particularly captivating to watch as an assortment of characters.
Despite its fine cast The Trial is definitely a niche production. There were certain elements that didn’t quite gel for me; the supposedly faceless nature of The Court are not as threatening as it should be.
The production is only two hours but even this doesn’t stop it from feeling rather long and arduous.