Our society has grown that little bit more Kafkaesque under the current government; perhaps that explains the coincidence of there being two large scale immersive adaptations of Franz Kafka’s works running in London concurrently.
Over in Shoreditch, you can spend hours roaming the streets in Retz’s production of ‘The Trial’. And in a warehouse deep in the heart of the Docklands you can experience this kooky spin on ‘In the Penal Colony’.
Fourth Monkey Theatre Company is not a company afraid of a challenge – apparently its next project is going to be a large-scale adaptation of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. And in its devised ‘Project Colony’ a large number of very free changes have been made to Kafka’s claustrophobic short story about a prison island that harbours an elaborate execution machine.
In fact ‘Project Colony’ seems to be more of a sequel – in the half of the show dubbed ‘The Old Regime’, we see the operator of the now badly malfunctioning machine reminiscing about the glory days now gone; in ‘The New Regime’ the present colony seems to be peopled not with prisoners but plucky gals in vintage dresses who sing us songs, give us sweets, engage us in sweetly naive conversation and freak out when the execution machine operator intrudes upon their idyll.
I assume that the show is meant as some comment on the inability of post-communist Europe to entirely escape its past. It has a few genuinely troubling moments, but they do tend to get drowned out by the dotty sweetness of the rest of ‘Project Colony’, with matters lurching unevenly between dark, heavily scripted segments and lengthy, jolly spells in which we literally just sit around and play board games. Andrzej Lukowski