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Theatre Review – The Trial

4 star theatre reviewFrom Leeds Student Online

By Hannah Astill

Using Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Frank Kafka’s original novel, the Workshop Theatre delves into the mysterious, dark and fascinating world of The Trial. It tells the story of Josef K, who, on the day of his 30th birthday is suddenly arrested by a remote and unexplained authority for an unknown crime that he is adamant he did not commit. The nature of the crime is never revealed, either to the audience or to Josef K, and it is this crawling ambiguity that pervades the entirety of the play. Guilty or innocent? Dream or reality? True or false? We are never given an answer, and neither is Josef.

The remainder of the play sees Josef battling against his conviction and his attempts to decipher all of the variable, bizarre characters he meets along the way. He meets an inspector, a priest, a bailiff and a painter, all as sporadic as each other and all, though initially helpful, seem to push Josef ever further away from the hope of being found innocent.

It is this characterisation that is a particularly strong point for the company. Each of the thirteen cast members take on one of the strange personas which Josef meets in his quest for innocence, and each does so with such sincerity that the required level of intensity needed for the play is amply satisfied. Visually also, the characters move around the dark stage beautifully, their detailed choreography taking on an almost mime-like finish. Tom Learner is brilliant as the unwillingly-omnipresent Josef, and his performance strongly anchors the rotundity of the play’s content.

It is extremely hard to explain just how irregular the plot is, but if you try and imagine the culmination of an oblivious protagonist, trapped within a gothic, Tim Burton-esque world full of context-devoid characters, then you might be somewhere close. But the Workshop Theatre has done a brilliant job of Kafka’s challenging play by achieving the impossible; by making the inaccessible, accessible. Yes, the many twists and turns are complex, but they are performed with such potency that they become acceptable to digest