The Trial

Tue 7th – Sat 11th August 2012


Lettice Franklin

at 22:03 on 10th Aug 2012



It is one of the oldest tricks in the book - the use of one single object to represent multiple pieces of furniture, different sets, props, and so on - but it is repeated for a reason. It is almost always effective. The On Your Feet Theatre Collective utilise nothing other than their own bodies and four pieces of roughly painted grey cardboard in this piece of physical theatre.

While this is clearly a cost-effective move (this is after all a free show), it is not a lazy one. The cast use these two resources energetically, elegantly and variously; people and cardboard represent many characters, doors, windows, walls, books, letters, stocks, and umbrellas.

The cast cannot be faulted in their physical theatre; they strut, shag, and somersault with poise, moving across the stage in complicated, synchronized arrangements as if they got out of bed with perfect posture and pointed toes. Their acting too, on the whole, was impressive. Peter Wallace made a charming - and easily charmed - Josef K, looking like he had stepped out of 'Mad Men'. The rest of the cast moved between several roles, skilfully marking their switches with new mannerisms. I particularly liked Charlotte Farmer’s portrayal of the sick doctor, and Holly Aston’s Marilyn Monroe-esque Fraulein Burstner. At points however the desire to differentiate between characters led to irritating overacting; Tanya Rae Chrystian’s Titorelli seemed overly hammed up, with an accent too extreme - although her impersonation of a cat came close to stealing the show!

The main flaw of this show is repetitiveness. The monotony and lack of totally explicable actions in Kafka’s text translate to a show which demands serious talent to keep the audience interested. The desire to reflect these qualities in the original is understandable but dangerous. This company’s choice to adopt such a limited palette of colours - nothing other than black, white, and grey - and of theatrical techniques and performers places a responsibility on these techniques and performers that they understandably but unfortunately cannot handle. The phrase, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, could be applied to the scenes of this show.

This show is bold and ambitious in its chosen text, performance methods and style. While this results in several imperfections, it also makes for a pretty impressive show - particularly given its place within PBH’s Free Fringe.


James Fennemore

at 09:11 on 11th Aug 2012



The carpet peels from the floor; ceiling-tiles are cracked and missing; the stench of grease wafts about the air. You’d be forgiven in thinking that this was a description of one of the dystopian scenes through which Kafka’s hapless protagonist, Josef K, must navigate during ‘The Trial’. Instead, it’s actually the venue in which the On Your Feet Theatre Collective are performing in the Princes Mall, which is inexcusably unsympathetic to its performers, whose lively production of ‘The Trial’ could have done without its rougher edges being exacerbated.

Kafka’s tale of injustice, state control, and sinister bureaucracy sees Josef K immediately arrested for a crime of which he is unaware. K is buffeted through the city, attending hearings and seeking legal advice, and revealing a picture of a disturbing, claustrophobic and secretive society. This production takes its cue from Stephen Berkoff’s 1971 version for physical theatre, and has the central character surrounded by a metamorphosing ensemble, which represent both the multitude of characters that K encounters, as well as forming the fluid settings for each scene.

It’s a style that’s very well suited to the piece, depicting the isolation of K, the machine-like bureaucracy which shifts and conspires about him, and gives the impression that he is never really in control of his own actions – of whom he meets, or where he goes. Largely, the physical theatre in this production is successful, and it’s engaging to watch how the four-person ensemble creates the world of the play as it progresses.

The production is, however, rather let down by its lack of finesse. Whilst the character-acting of Holly Aston and Charlotte Farmar is often witty and appealing, Peter Wallace is a rather disappointing Josef K. Although conveying the protagonist’s bewilderment pretty well, this central performance really needs more of a substantial sense and development of character and emotion for the whole piece to hold together coherently. Pablo Valencia, the only male member of the ensemble cast, is often a little unclear in his delivery, which will hopefully improve as he gains experience.

Without a lighting design, owing to the shortfalls of the venue, this production is unable to really show itself off to its full potential. It’s by no means bad, particularly for a free show, but its clumsiness limits its overall effect. This early venture for the new theatre company does, however, show promise, and with more refinement, assurance, and a better venue could become a really powerful and sharp production.


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