When well done, the biographical show is one of the purest theatrical events known to man. Shorn of pretension and gimmick, often relying on a small core of actors, and deploying truth and shared curiosity to underpin an entire piece, it is a cornerstone of the Fringe experience and frequently throws up performances far superior to their more flashy cousins.
An impeccable piece which delivers with confidence and clarity
Kafka and Son is all this, but yet so much more. In the delicate yet robust acting hands of Alon Nashman, it is a masterclass in the economy of truth, complete character immersion and storytelling.
At the age of 36, the writer Franz Kafka was still living at home, a petty bureaucrat, failed artist, and timid Jewish son. Ruling and ruining his life was his overbearing father, Hermann. As, one assumes, a vehicle for both catharsis and justice, Kafka penned his father ‘brief an den vater’: a fifty page letter outlining both his own emotional distress and his father’s part in it.
Adapted by Mark Cassidy and Nashman, this production is driven by that letter. It is staged with an extraordinarily imaginative yet exquisitely controlled eye which shapes both the narrative and our reaction to it, underpinning the plot with an innate theatricality that seems somehow utterly natural.
There is, too, the dream-like quality you would expect from the author of the source material, and the judicious lighting and sound choices weave place, period and situative threads with delicacy. Nashman switches between vulnerability as Kafka and bullishness as his father, evoking a warmth of connection with the audience and pushing us towards hoping for a different conclusion for this strange and complex soul.
This is an impeccable piece which delivers with confidence and clarity from start to finish, and a must-see for anyone moved by the simple purity of words well-delivered.