WORTH A LOOK? *****
WHERE: Young Vic
WHEN: 1/8 runs to 22/8
Have you ever seen a play set on a travelator? The biggest triumph in this fantastic Kafka adaptation is Miriam Buether’s design, combining a Generation Game-style conveyor belt surrounded by jury-style benches where the audience sits.
One of the reasons the Young Vic is so hot right now is the creative freedoms its adaptable spaces have allowed recent productions including View From The Bridge, Bull and Streetcar Named Desire the opportunity to innovate with their settings. Entrance to the Young Vic’s main house is through a keyhole-shaped door, a motif echoed in our first glimpse of the stage.
The Trial also marks Rory Kinnear’s first stage role since his Iago in the National’s Othello was garlanded with best actor Standard and Olivier awards in 2013. His Josef K, who wakes on his 35th birthday to arrest and trial for an unknown charge, is downplayed to the point of ordinariness as we empathise with his powerlessness and downfall as an increasingly nightmarish legal world envelopes him.
The cast with which he is surrounded is fantastic and scene-stealing: Kate O’Flynn, Sian Thomas, Sarah Crowden, Richard Cant and Hugh Skinner (‘no, but, yeah, but …cool, no worries’ permanent work experience Tim from W1A) are unforgettable in a variety of roles as Kinnear selflessly shines so little, allowing those around him to amplify Josef K’s plight by acting so cartoonishly.
This adaptation probably isn’t for everyone; the audience appeared subdued perhaps due to the rising temperature referenced in the text; and watching proceedings unfurl on a giant travelator is unusual, although monstagigz felt this added to the inescapable nature of Josef K’s plight as he is overwhelmed with bureaucracy and the lack of transparency of a legal system where everything belongs to the court.
The Trial has divided critics but we felt in particular its innovative design is going to be hard to be bettered by any other production this year.