Kafka’s Monkey

In so many ways, Kafka’s Monkey is a masterstroke for HOME.  Originally performed in 2009, this production has toured around the world to great acclaim.  It was originally directed by Walter Meierjohann, now Artistic Director at HOME, when he was International Associate Director at the Young Vic.  This programming removes the need to produce a new play after the complex, large scale of Funfair, but it keeps the momentum of HOME‘s launch, and maintains a consistent style.

Kafka’s Monkey is based on Kafka’s A Report to an Academy, a short story dating from 1917.  I had read the story recently and I would go as far as to recommend reading it before seeing the play, because this play is not about the story.  It is about the interpretation of the story.  It is about the way the ape – Red Peter – feels about his personal journey and the motivations for, and the consequences of, the decisions he took.  The final character is formed by the disparate influences – the music hall, the drinking culture on the boat, the way he learnt language.

The ape is brilliantly played by Kathryn Hunter, with impressive physicality.  What is overpowering is the complexity of emotions that she displays as Red Peter, different aspects of character layered on top of one another, different elements coming out at any one time. At once playful, the next educated; the base ape showing through to different degrees.  We see ourselves reflected on the stage.

This play is 55 minutes long.  It’s a single actor on quite a bare stage, although sound, lights and various props are used very effectively.  But from the moment Kathryn Hunter steps on stage you are captivated.  A must-see.

 

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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