The Trial – Smock Alley – Review by Anthony McDonagh
14 – 18 Jun | 8pm | Boys School – No Drama Theatre
‘The Trial’ by Franza Kafta was adapted by Steven Berkoff into a stage production in 1970. This particular production is by No Drama Theatre at Smock Alley Boys’ School.
‘The Trial’ follows the character of Josef K, a banker who finds himself arrested for no apparent reason. He is insistent that he has done nothing wrong. Despite being told that he can go about his usual business, he is very much aware of his impending trial.
The play begins before you arrive in your seats. Greeted at the door by your ‘attorneys’, the audience almost assume the role of Mr. K. and are handed his subpoena and some literature on the production. The audience sits immersed in darkness for quite some time before the lights turn on. The music is frenetic and foreboding, and with the shadowy figures of the cast on-stage, it is a fantastic way to arouse the curiosity of the audience.
Audience participation is encouraged, though not required, throughout the entirety of the play. Suggestions are listed on the literature; take a photo, make train noises, scream, ‘throw this at K’. You are advised, ‘The spectator must meet the actor in the middle . . . great things come from two extremes’.
The acting and direction in the play are impressive. Even with a nervous and somewhat lacklustre audience, performances never faltered. Each cast member plays a multitude of roles. Their performances can change in a heartbeat as they go from laughing manically to screaming in anguish, to dribbling on themselves and even to undressing entirely.
Even when in the background, the actors stay in character. Whether speaking in the foreground, or acting in darkness in the background, each actor appeared fully engaged in the process and was captivating to watch. Truth be told, the performances almost detract from the narrative of the piece as we are more focused on their movements than any dialogue. Unfortunately, this does hinder the production. It is jarring to suddenly have to focus on K’s looming trial and the second act does drag a bit. However, it also has an engaging musical sequence and some fantastic performances in the scene with the painter Titorelli.
This two and a half-hour production is minimalist and credit must be given to all those involved in it. As far as adaptations of ‘The Trial’ go, it is not the most accurate as the plot is secondary and difficult to follow. However, judging the play purely on performances—it is a very strong experimental piece.
Cast: Nikhil Dubey, Louise Dunne, Elaine Fahey, Greg Freegrove, Siobhan Hickey, Amélie Laguillon, Sarah Moloney, Daniel O’Brien, Cathal O’Donovan, Ciaran Treanor
Directed by Noel Cahill and David Breen