The Trial

Kafka’s “Trial” is, in many respects, a very daring piece of work to choose to put on at the Edinburgh Fringe. For starters, it is neither comedy nor new writing and the nature of the piece, twinned with the obvious fact that it has and still is performed and “re-interpreted” so regularly would, I’m sure, lead many people towards “giving it a miss”. Don’t. This is a truly exceptional production and there are so many fantastic ideas and inventions sprung up throughout it that I walked out feeling stunned at both the creativity and indeed the execution of it all.“The Trial” was written by Franz Kafka in 1924, and tells the story of a senior bank clerk, Joseph K., who is arrested for an unspecified crime on his 30th birthday. After being instructed to stay at home and await further instructions, K is subsequently framed in various uncompromising situations, forced into several strange and surreal conversations and is eventually told by a priest in his town’s Cathedral that his fate is effectively helpless. The final chapter of his life becomes increasingly clear to the reader (or audience in this case) and the horrific ending is made no less shocking by the sense that we always have inkling as to what will happen.Belt Up Theatre’s production is set in an old warehouse-like space in C-Soco; blindfolded as you walk in and shepherded into line, the shouts and cries surrounding the audience leave everyone with an eerie, uneasy feeling. From the relatively relaxed nature of standing calmly in a queue before we were admitted to the space, this immediately turned to utter discomfort and insecurity as our blindfolds were removed and the cast started to glide in the dark seamlessly around both us and the man who, it became apparent, was playing Joseph K. In reality, Dominic J Allen’s adaption of the book is nothing especially to write home about – at times the script can lead the action towards the melodramatic - however this doesn’t hugely matter; the strength of the piece really lies in its physical nature and the way in which the audience become utterly immersed in the story. We are constantly moved around in the space, characters dressed in black pop up incessantly between us and the physical and mental oppression which Joseph K is blockaded by becomes indelibly etched in our minds as the play goes on.My only major gripe with this production is the way in which the maelstrom of ideas and styles sometimes became a touch too frenentic. There was a particular moment after Joseph meets Titorelli (the court painter) and asks for his advice where I felt a breath or two could have been taken and the extra time the audience would have had to consider our protagonist’s great plight would have only served to add to the play’s effect. However this aside, this really is a terrific piece of theatre. Belt Up’s superbly energetic cast, exciting use of the space and brilliant execution of some very inventive ideas draws you right into the centre of the action. When we are spat out at the end, the image that it leaves us with is of one of cold, shuddering silence twinned with shear horror. This is total theatre at its best.

Reviews by John C Kennedy

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The Blurb

Nightmarish immersive experience from Edinburgh International Festival Award winners, Belt Up. Kafka's chilling masterpiece reincarnated by the critically acclaimed company behind last year's Fringe sensation 'The Red Room'. Expect the unexpected! 'Impressive, invigorating and inspirational' (Scotsman). www.nothingtoseehear.co.uk

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