Agonising over Joseph K
I'm going to have to throw my hands up in the air over this one. I saw Joseph K last Friday at the great little Gate Theatre in Notting Hill and have shied away from writing about it since because, well, I didn't understand it.
There, I said it, it's out there.
Maybe it's because it's based on Kafka's novel The Trial and I've always struggled with Kafka. Maybe I'm just stupid because that's how it made me feel. That and frustrated. Bit like when I couldn't do my O-level maths homework.
The play follows a man who's life is good until he is accused of an unknown crime. Niggley things start happening, his mobile and bank cards stop working and he starts being overlooked at work. So, he sets about finding out what it is he is supposed to have done, dealing with all sort of levels of silly, illogical bureaucracy along the way. (Ought to be Clowns has a more detailed description of the plot on his blog.)
It is the fodder of your most surreal, illogical dream, the sort of dream that you are relieved to wake up from and can never explain to anyone else.
And that's where my frustration lay because I just couldn't come to anything close to a satisfactory conclusion, particularly factoring in the perplexingly brutal ending that just seemed out of sink with the slightly comic, surreal tone of the rest of the play.
The production itself is acted nicely enough, the stage set seemed a little fussy and complicated for the space with scene changes a little awkward at times but all a little over shadowed by my 'not getting it' unfortunately.
It's difficult to rate something that wasn't necessarily bad, just perhaps not for me, so I'm going to sit on the fence and give it three stars. The play has now finished its run but I have had a peak at some other reviews for comparisons:
Lyn Gardner in the Guardian gave it three stars: "The ambiguity gives it power and it's neatly performed by a cast of four, including the author. But it's never as snappy and sharply satirical as it might be, largely because the production is hampered by an overcomplicated design that slows the action to a walking pace when it requires a sprint."
Henry Hitchins in the Evening Standard gave it four stars: "There are two problems: an unsatisfactory ending and a rather fussy design that sometimes retards the action. But this is an often breathtakingly funny piece, expertly constructed and dripping with acid wit. The multi-talented Basden is, among other things, a playwright to watch."
Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph gave it two stars: "Throughout, Basden treads an impressive line between serving the spirit - and even at times the letter - of the original and creating something that feels freshly minted. There are, all the same, some problems with Lyndsey Turner's production.
"Designer Chloe Lamford's tricksy array of wooden doors and panels is, despite its ingenuity, too cumbersome to enable a suitably fluid and fast sense of bureaucratic nightmare. And the reliance on Basden himself, along with his regular comic collaborator Tim Key, to perform a multitude of roles, allows the pair's tendency towards flip, off-hand delivery to establish too strong a hold on the evening's tone."