first night

Kafka's Dick

Harry Twining deems 1TC's production of 'Kafka's Dick' a sizeable success.

Featuring one of the more cucumber-heavy publicity campaigns of this year, 1TCs production of Alan Bennetts Kafkas Dick had me curious of what to expect. Offering an intriguing meditation on the nature of fame and existence, what I received was an incredibly well acted and tightly delivered piece of drama, which I enjoyed immensely.

Jake Hathaway was outstanding as the eponymous writer Franz Kafka, managing to convey a subtle awkwardness through voice and posture without losing his impressive stage presence. In doing so, he captured a complex character, convincingly ranging from the pondering philosopher to a cowering, childlike figure. He also proved to have entertaining chemistry with Zac Tiplady as Max Brod, through both moments of friendship and anger. Tiplady maintained a comfortable rapport with the audience throughout, providing a nice contrast of smooth delivery to Hathaways clipped tones, and both opened the production with an attention-grabbing pace. I did feel this dipped slightly with the (albeit smooth) transition into the home of Sydney (Henry Gould) and wife Linda (Poppy Sparrow), possibly due to an initial lack of energy and a slight unintentional awkwardness from Gould. However, this quickly improved, and Goulds eagerness when faced with his long-dead literary hero and indignation at his wifes cutting remarks was a joy to behold.

The set was equally impressive, with the cluttered bookshelf, tables and desk really capturing the sedate cosiness of their home. Sparrow as the wife provided one of the productions more eye-catching performances. Her withering comic timing was played to perfection, and arguably earned her the majority of the shows many laughs. Adam Simpson as Hermann K also gave an impressive performance. His lines (although occasionally a tad rushed) were delivered with an icy brutality which provided incredibly fun viewing. The energy he brought to the stage (though sometimes a little overbearing on the rest of the cast) really pulled up the pace for the second act, with witty lines from all actors zinging back and forth like a game of intellectual tennis.

Also deserving of mentions are Josh Williams as the elderly Father, who won laughter and audible sympathy from the audience with his pitiful voice and tottering gait, and Angharad Philips as the motherly Julie, a physical representation of the unsung women behind the fame of men.

Understandably for a first night, there were a few technical hitches, such as a significantly long blackout as the second act began and a few issues with knobs. Other than this, lighting was used simply yet effectively, dimming to draw the audience into the more intimate and touching moments of Hathaways performance. The direction of Anna Haines was also highly deserving of praise. Despite a couple of moments where some actors were blocked, the staging never felt too static or untowardly frantic, and contained a number of clever decisions to really emphasise the surreal and often meta feel of the play.

Kafkas Dick proves to be a fascinating contemplation of the fame of the art versus the fame of the man himself, and what really lives on. The play succeeded in combining such intriguing philosophy with laugh-out-loud humour and genuinely touching moments. Even if you (like myself) are not overly familiar with Kafkas work (or Dick’, for that matter), I urge anyone who wishes to enjoy a well executed and stimulating production to see this play.

27 January 2017

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.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC