Review: Joseph K
Knows where it’s going, but hasn’t got there yet.
We’re so very nearly through with Michaelmas. Term has almost finished, so you’re not left with much thinking power, but term hasn’t quite finished, so you’ve not got time for anything too happy. With that in mind, a nice black comedy like Joseph K should be perfect.
Tom Basden’s script adapts The Trial, Kafka’s classic novel of bureaucracy and power, for a modern age. It retains the main gist of its narrative whilst updating the details; inserting references to Boots cards, phone-in radio shows and takeaway sushi. It’s a clever script, and one which helps the cast of this Corpus Main Show to paper over some of the weaknesses of their production.
For the most part, Daniel Emery’s production is funny and entertaining and parts of it will have you laughing really hard. It’s most likely that these will be any scenes where Adam Mirsky and Christian Hines are on stage together, as these two actors are an excellent comic duo, who play off each other extremely well. They throw themselves into a range of characters, demonstrating an impressive versatility in accent and physicality. The only minor disappointment is when one of Mirsky’s characters is the slightly tired cliché of the camp Yorkshireman; for an actor with such impressive range, it’s a shame to see him lapsing into stereotype.
There are times when watching Mirsky and Hines that you’ll feel the two of them deserve their own sitcom, and whilst this is a credit to the pair, it does also leave you wondering if Emery’s direction wouldn’t be better to suited to a television adaption of the script. Some slower paced sequences might work well on television, but in the theatre, and particularly for a play as absurd as this one, the momentum of the jokes really needs to be sustained better to maintain the mood of hilarity in the audience.
There were also some amusing moments from Beth Hindaugh, as the third comic actor, particularly in role as the long-suffering intern for Joseph K’s intern, although at times Hindaugh didn’t really seem to be throwing herself into her roles with the same energy as Mirsky and Hines. Jamie Robson, as Joseph K, also shows promise, particularly at the end of the play where the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that he must endure finally drives him mad. Unfortunately though, this comes a little too late; there had been no build up to this from Robson, who had spent the preceding hour and a half in the same state of mild exasperation, rather than becoming increasingly hysterical as he surely should have.
By the end of the performance, the floor of the Playroom was covered in hundreds of sheets of paper, documenting every aspect of Joseph’s life. It was a fitting image to end on, but it did also leave you wondering whether more could have been done with lighting and set, both of which were rather minimalist; a pin board with a map and a few train tickets hinted at the level of control the sinister, invisible bureaucracy had over Joseph but wasn’t quite enough on its own.
Like much of this production, it showed that Emery and his cast knew where they were going, but haven’t quite got there yet. It’s a funny performance and an enjoyable evening, but one that didn’t always fulfil its potential.