The Trial ****

C Soco, 5 – 31 August 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

It’s often hard to see what’s going on in Belt Up’s immersive adaptation of Kafka’s absurdist work. You’re blindfolded from the moment you enter the C Soco squat; even once the blindfold is removed the space is thickly hazed, and the action often takes place beyond or amongst your fellow audience members. But perhaps this is for the best. There are monsters in the smoke.

The unjustly arrested Josef K is the only recognisably normal person in a world of grotesques. There’s extremely exaggerated vocal and physical work, a certain amount of sinister clowning, and one genuinely hideous creature: a head coated in smeared greasepaint, spitting obscenities above a monstrously obese body created from pulsating, ragged umbrellas, lit from within by golden light. It’s a bizarre, macabre, deeply unpleasant but utterly convincing world.

The company skilfully exploit the audience’s herd mentality to shepherd them into becoming corridors, portrait galleries and crowds of waiting defendants. But while the dialogue is always loud and clear enough, there are moments where it’s all too easy to get stuck behind two rows of people and miss the physical action. This engenders some empathy for K, who likewise is denied a view of the whole picture, but it’s still a wrench to miss a single eerie moment.

Written by Dominic J Allen after Franz Kafka

Crew includes

Cast includes

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