As an unfinished text imbued with deep mystery, ranging from menacing abstract bureaucracy to detailed recounted memories, Kafka’s The Castle is a challenging undertaking, but the Old Dog Theatre Company have done an admirable job.
An engaging piece, with sections of powerful insight
As a collective of young actors and puppeteers, switching between puppetry, more conventional acting, and snippets of dance and physical theatre, they successfully manage to provide windows into the strange atmosphere of the land protagonist K has entered into. The actor in this main role performs with a charm that is engaging and natural to the role.
The costumes and use of props were beautiful and also held in balance being evocative of 20th century village life, whilst retaining an abstract flexibility that allowed the setting to form more fully in the audience’s eye. The use of shirts and clothing without bodies as puppets was an impactful technique, which conveyed the impersonal nature of the bureaucrats on the rare occasions when they were sighted. On the other hand, it was always going to be a challenge getting across the pervasive influence of the more commonly unsighted officials from the Castle, but perhaps it was too easy and direct an option to use a booming voiceover to portray their all-consuming authority.
Some of the plot is slightly lost with the need to introduce new characters that K encounters in short spaces of time and with a limited and unevenly distributed range of actors, not all of whom are quite as accomplished. At points, it can be confusing that the same actor is required to play consecutive roles, re-entering the main scene through the mobile door prop in quick succession. The infatuation and ensuing arguments between K and his lover Frieda were also not given quite enough time to seem fully formed, yet the production also attempted to explain their respective motives in a more concrete way than is given in the original text.
As a whole, though, it was an engaging piece, with sections of powerful insight, and others that admirably attempt to pull together the multiple threads of Kafka’s genius.