KAFKA AND SON  ****

THEATRE

PLEASANCE COURTYARD  (V33)      11.40

AUGUST 2ND TO 27TH   (NOT 15, 16)

This is a one man performance by Alan Nashman, who becomes both Franz Kafka and the father to whom Franz addressed a long and impassioned letter, analysing the difficulties he had being this father’s son and the ways he felt his father had damaged and abused him. The father is accused of hypocrisy in relation to his following of the Jewish faith, and of immorality in his business dealings and his relations with those he employed. The father is here given a chance to respond, and Alan Nashman moves between the characters of father and son, with the father detailing his son’s weaknesses and ingratitude, and at one point saying that Franz was always on the mother’s side, and that she was obstinate. Franz was the only one of several sons who did not die young, so much was expected of him.

Franz Kafka’s suggestive and many-layered works continue to fascinate, and illuminate the dark areas of life both domestic and social. Alan Nashman here allows us a dramatic insight into what the personal life was like for Franz Kafka.

The room in which this performance is given at Pleasance Courtyard is called Bunker One, which is pretty appropriate. It is dark and cave-like, rather like a large prison cell. The props, of bed frame, cage, and similar structures evoke deprivation. When Alan Nashman clatters the bed frame, or crawls under it, or gets into the cage, we travel with him into the struggles within Franz’s mind.

The father figure is presented as fierce,  overwhelming but also having his weaknesses, his desires, and his hopes for his son. Alan Nashman manages to let us see him as a complex human being. Within the time span of the show this is a very considerable achievement.

This is a piece of acting of real intensity, with humour and with pathos. After Canada, Iceland, Germany, Turkey, South Africa and Prague, this show is now here in Edinburgh. It is full of piercing insights and ideas, and is extremely well worth catching.

Tony Challis