While every adventure has its ups and downs, Franz Kafka’s protagonists suffer more than most. Based on the writer’s blackly comic classics ‘The Trial’ and ‘In The Penal Colony’, it’s no wonder that this site specific journey through the streets of Shoreditch from Retz Productions is an unsettling ride. But it could do with being a less bumpy one.
Joseph K has been found guilty of an unknown crime by a faceless bureaucracy. Following in his footsteps, Part One (which starts at Shoreditch Town Hall) sees you rattle from one East London venue to the next, meeting an array of human cogs in the shady machine that has condemned our hero, all of whom are increasingly strange. In this episodic production you then return – on a different day if you wish – for Part Two, the trial itself.
Left to your own devices this is both an excitingly autonomous experience and one plagued with the mundane perils and frustrations of getting lost. On a cold night the mixture of topographical paranoia and impending pneumonia is in danger of diluting the potency of each unnerving meeting.
‘The Trial’ is a logistically herculean task and the web of intrigue is often roughly executed. But as you are sent between ever more elaborate buildings, the feeling of abandoned alienation that Retz’s eerie cast creates provokes a subtly pervading sense of disquiet.
You never feel in any real danger, but Retz splices Kafka’s stories about the beleaguered individual with interrogations of online identity – a canny move that strikes a powerful contemporary chord. Honour Bayes