Kafka and Son

At the age of 36, Franz Kafka sat down to write a letter to his father that would never be sent. Kafka and Son is the dramatic adaptation of this letter, which details the father’s tyrannical behaviour and the effect it had on Kafka’s mental state. Alon Nashman is both the performer of this one man show and it’s creator, and gives a sublime performance as the anxious, paranoid Kafka. It’s clear Nashman is hugely passionate about the subject, having performed the production for over a decade.

Intense, intimate, moving and unmissable if you’re a fan of the author’s work.

The show is perfectly staged in Bunker One at the Pleasance, performed on a thrust stage with the audience looking in on the actor, set-up with a cage and wire mesh bed frame, no doubt symbolic of a lack of comfort in the domestic setting. There is a lot of symbolism within the show, which may be lost on audience members that aren’t as avid about the subject as Nashman. Black feathers lie strewn across the stage midway through the performance and it can only be assumed that this is a reference to the loose translation of the word ‘Kafka’ to the Czech word meaning ‘jackdaw’. Nevertheless, while being confusing at times, the set cultivates an incredible atmosphere of claustrophobia and isolation, mirroring the themes of Kafka’s own work.

Keeping Nashman’s own Canadian accent seems an odd creative choice, especially considering what seem to be a staunch authenticity in other areas such as the soundtrack, which is used to transition between scenes. This doesn’t have much of an effect on the performance, however there are moments where the character of Kafka’s father slipped briefly from the oppressive and genuinely terrifying presence into something of a caricature.

The show is structured excellently and Nashman holds the audience in the palm of his hand, however moments of poetic dance and movement may leave some bemused. The show does, however, have universal appeal in terms of the basic plot. Those knowing nothing of Kafka will nonetheless be provided with an hour accurately dramatising the realities of an abusive relationship between father and son and the mental contortions this puts the victim through – such is the brilliance of Nashman’s performance.

There are moments where some of the creative direction seems a little heavy handed, with Nashman attempting to dance within the restrictions of a cage being an obvious interpretation of caged creativity. There are also points where I begin to doubt the point to which Kafka’s mental state seems to have been extrapolated.

Kafka and Son is not an easy watch, however, it is intense, intimate, moving and unmissable if you’re a fan of the author’s work. The show gives an insight into his writing that perhaps may not have been considered, while being performed powerfully well.

Reviews by Caitlin Rebecca

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The Blurb

Winner of Outstanding Production at the Prague, Canada, Germany, and South African Theatre Awards, and a five-star, sell-out hit on four continents. At age 36, Franz Kafka wrote a monumental letter to his overbearing father that would change the course of his life and fiction forever. A blistering, often hilarious dissection of domestic authority, Kafka and Son is a revelatory visit with one of the architects of the modern psyche. 'Funny, heart-breaking, and chilling theatre' ***** (CBC, Canada). 'Kafka and Son is pure, unadulterated, surreal goodness' ***** (VueWeekly.com, Canada)