Franz Kafka Apparatus
Blue Devil Theatre
Adapted by Ross Dinwiddy from ‘In The Penal Colony’ by Franz Kafka
The Apparatus, an instrument of torture and execution on a nameless island, is starting to fall into disrepair, nurtured and adored by its Officer, in a tightly wound unravelling performance by Emily Carding. It’s basically a monologue with diversions, as an obsessed fan of the deceased former Commandant and precise artist in torture describes the process in intricate detail.
Matt Hastings as the Traveller is a prime case of boiled frog syndrome, an appalled visiting observer hearing about an instrument of exquisite execution in this insane culture, until he has no choice but to jump and leave them to it.
As the young Soldier, Maximus Polling is initially bored then drawn into a playful flirtation, casual cruelty growing into wondering connection as a wordless love story develops in the background.
Luis Amália’s silent Condemned Man is initially childlike and oblivious of his fate, all Early Man happy wonderment over the Soldier’s beauty and his fascinating surroundings.
Gazing up in reverence, the Officer’s the ultimate fan; with her rictus grin, religious ecstasy and occasional flashes of rage, it’s clear this precise, civilised intellectual’s a total wacko.
The Apparatus itself is only described, gigantic and dreadful. It’s the bed the victim must lie on that takes centre stage, lovingly presented in all its features.
And like the Apparatus itself, Carding’s Officer is running through her own programme. Every assured word is crystal clear, the stylised language reading as a recitation, a frequently told litany, but the downside is that it lacks spontaneity. We do lose focus during some of the long speeches, distracted by the silent show as the Soldier and Condemned Man fall in love in front of us.
The final scene feels tacked on; indeed one audience member tried clapping during the scene change, thinking the play had ended.
In the end a packed audience knows what it’s in for, the occasional laughs rather a relief from the horrific images – which are all entirely in our own minds.
Contains full male and female nudity and descriptions of torture.