Pros: Brendan O’Rourke, performing on an expertly assembled set, is brilliant as he switches between multiple characters.
Cons: Definitely not one to see if you’re looking for something light-hearted.
“Someone must have maligned Joseph K. because he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.” These opening words come direct from Franz Kafka’s most famous novel, The Trial: a story about a man who is one day unexpectedly arrested, without cause or reason – or so we are led to believe.
Eighty years after it was first published, writer Howard Colyer has adapted the text into a dramatic monologue starring the highly talented Brendan O’Rourke. It plays for one week only at the brilliantly versatile venue, the Jack Studio Theatre (but be warned, it does get hot in there).
We first meet Joseph K. in his prison cell exactly one year after his arrest. He stands in the darkness, and the lighting slowly brings our attention to the writing on the walls and on the floor – his name – written a million times around his cell. As he begins to speak, we hear his account of what happened the day of his arrest and what has happened since. All of the details related to his incarceration are sketchy, yet his memories of the women he has met along the way are perfect. As the speech progresses we are introduced to some of the twenty-six characters from the original text that O’Rourke brilliantly brings to life with his physical and vocal morphing.
As the lights go down approximately fifty minutes later on this very much philosophical thinker of a performance, we are still as blind as Joseph K. is as to the reason behind his arrest. But therein lies the beauty, as we the audience have the freedom to make our own minds up.
Howard Colyer has done very well to condense the three hundred page novel into a fifty minute one-man speech. He has maintained the intellect and philosophy of the original text and also kept the majority of the drama, although there were moments when I would have enjoyed a duologue or two, just to break it up.
O’ Rouke is an absolute genius and performs Joseph K., and indeed the other characters, superbly by maintaining the seriousness but still managing to add snippets of hilarity. His switching into the two arresting officers, sometimes at great speed, is fantastic and his physicality of the woman in the courthouse is hilarious.
The set, designed by O’Rourke and director Saul Reid, though simple, is brilliant. The chalk markings of Joseph K’s name give the impression of seclusion, frustration and entrapment. With only black and white in sight, it makes you think, is the reasoning behind his imprisonment black and white?
Marie Kearney’s lighting design is also kept simple yet gives maximum dramatic effect with dark and light being used to differentiate between Joseph’s cell and his memories before he was incarcerated.
Triple Jump’s version of The Trial succeeds because of its simplicity, from the text to the lighting; but it is O’Rourke that is the absolute highlight of the show. His talent and energy is boundless, evident in the amount of sweat that seeps through his shirt. If you’re looking for something a little less taxing that doesn’t require too much thinking, then perhaps this one isn’t for you. But certainly keep an eye out for Brendan O’Rourke, he is one to watch.
Author: Franz Kafka
Adapted By: Howard Colyer
Director: Saul Reid
Producer: Triple Jump Productions
Booking Until: 27 August 2016
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/the-trial/