first night

The Trial

Zenia Selby finds 3DTC's latest production anything but a trial to watch


Berkoff is heavy. Berkoff is hard. The Trial is a play that requires great directorial vision and skilled artistic creativity to ensure that the message of the play is brought across to the audience poignantly, but that they are also entertained and that they ultimately, despite the play’s bleak and powerful ending, find the production enjoyable. Hamish Clayton possesses such vision and creativity in bucket-loads.

Hamish chose a very physical, minimalistic approach that worked well with the content of the play and with the skills of his actors. The lead was differentiated from the chorus by a simple difference in costume colour. Bare wooden door frames were used expertly to quickly and easily change scene settings. The sheer physicality and energy of the actors was very impressive, and their co-ordination both as a group and individually was some of the slickest I have ever seen. This was clearly a well-rehearsed, well-blocked and well-cast group. I noticed and found particularly impressive the use of simple rehearsal techniques, such as mirroring and levels, being used to create mirrors and stairs through the sheer physical skill of the actors.

Special mention must be made of Alex Colville, whose portrayal of all his characters, but particularly the old, decrepit and incontinent lawyer Huld was outstanding. His training at the Oxford School of Drama has clearly set him up perfectly for the demands of a play such as this. Henry Fell as Joseph K stood as an excellent foil, the one figure of normality, against the complex, confusing and deceptive world being built around him, that even involved human phone lines stretched across the stage. Connie O’Conor’s silky voice made the short sections of narration all the more engaging.

The only aspect of this production I felt could have been improved slightly was Henry’s performance at the very end of the play, as his Trial comes to a head and the world around him, which had seemed so normal, functional and logical at the beginning of the play, comes crashing down around him. I would have liked to have seen a more broken man, a man who has had his entire conception of himself and his environment torn apart. Henry delivered some very compelling speeches, but I felt they could have been even more compelling had he appeared more internally destroyed by them.

However, this is a very minor point. I came away from the Assembly Rooms having enjoyed a very professional performance. It would be very difficult to find a slicker, more sensitively portrayed version of The Trial. A warm congratulations to all involved in this production is well deserved.

11 March 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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