Sipping from a bottle of free beer, I see people in grey overalls going in and out of a ground floor flat which has been turned into a theatre. Sometimes they ceremoniously read edicts out loud. Sometimes they laugh and screech while wrestling and licking each other on the floor.
Das Schloss von Franz Kafka explores two deeply political questions: Where does power reside in society? And also: How do we relate to it as individuals and/or members of a community? The main character, K., has been summoned to a village to work as a land surveyor. Only no one there has heard anything about the matter. Everything that takes place in the region involves formal procedures, and lots of paperwork. There is a strict hierarchy at work, where everyone seems to know their place. However, neither K. nor we can ever understand why or where all the decisions are made. All we see are middlemen and documents issued from afar.
The people in the village behave in all sorts of quirky ways, from animalistic to pompous. Some are inexplicably hostile to K., others “too friendly”, making advances at him. But all are particularly unhelpful in his attempts to reach the castle or any of the people who work in it. Are the villagers the wielders or the medium of power? Does the power of the authorities exist independently from their subjects’ actions? Or is that power nothing but the result of the awe they feel towards the castle?
Johnny Mhanna’s interpretation makes K. look apathetic. But it is his steadfast fixation with the castle what isolates him from the community and impedes him from grasping the intricate web which sustains it. I could feel his impotence in my own body in a scene where he crawls out of a table using his neck only. He sweats and breaths heavily for a few minutes, moving a feet or two.
Jakub Kavin has chosen to exploit the absurd and the grotesque of the story on the stage. Dissonant music, voices, and bodily sounds enhance the sense of uneasiness produced by K.’s and our incapability of understanding what is going on. In the middle of this, some unexpected moments of beauty spring like glowing mushrooms out of mouldering matter: Barbara Schandl playing the cello on the corner and Bernhardt Jammernegg singing a bluesy tune a cappella with his deep, rough voice.
The mystery of the unfinished text is also poetically preserved in the final scene. Wearing big grotesque white masks, the actors slowly move to the centre of the stage to produce one final image. They silently observe us as we observe them disappear in the fog that progressively fills the room under a blue light.
Summary: A sympathetic staging of Kafka’s novel, which relies on dissonance and the grotesque and is not altogether incompatible with an idiosyncratic sense of beauty.
DAS SCHLOSS NACH FRANZ KAFKA
eine TheaterArche Produktion
Regie und Bearbeitung: Jakub Kavin
Regieassistenz: Christine Nemeth und Nagy Vilmos
Musik: Margareta Ferek-Petric und das Ensemble
mit: Anna Anderluh, Natalia Fonta, Bernhardt Jammernegg, Johnny Mhanna und Barbara Schandl
Foto: © Felix Kubitza / www.lichtmalerei.photo