Warning: this show opens with a man middle-aged man clad only briefs. Don’t worry; he later changes into a gorilla suit, which is more comfortable for everyone involved…except him. The thing looks sweltering hot. This one man (or should I say one monkey?) show wisely incorporates Adrin Neatrour’s changes into and out of his ape costume. He enters as a blank slate in physicality and dress, then morphs into a hulking primate as he puts on the gorilla. As the ape narrates his ascent to humanity, Neatrour slowly removes the pieces of his costume. It’s a interesting idea and a well-executed show, but I’m not sure if A Report to an Academy really works as a stage piece. It’s written as a speech and could certainly be delivered as one, but there isn’t quite enough going on to make for gripping theatre. Still, if you really enjoy Kafka and this piece in particular, it’s worth seeing what this monkey is doing.
The show might be a little too minimalist for its own good. Neatrour is the centrepiece but a costume only stays interesting for so long. While he is a decent storyteller, the story Kafka’s ape has to tell us isn’t earth-shattering. He’s captured and confined, until he realizes that the only way is the way of man. Kafka’s writing just isn’t all that theatrical. By the time Neatrour finishes a sentence you’ve forgotten how it started. Also, while Neatrour has put a lot of work into his gorilla physicality and vocalizations it gets old pretty fast. Thankfully, he doesn’t speak in his ‘gorilla learning to talk’ mumble-roar for the whole show, but the section where he does could be even shorter. The ape addresses the audience as the Academy, but more could have been done with this concept. I wanted to know more about this shadowy academy.
If you are familiar with this piece or just really enjoy Planet of the Apes and people dressed in gorilla suits, do go see this. It’s not worth shouting from the treetops over, but it’s Kafka and there’s a man in a gorilla suit.