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May 2004
Kafka's Dick @ Burton Taylor Theatre
Tortoise
Tortoise
Kafka's Dick by Alan Bennett

The Burton Taylor

11 -15 May 2004

Doors 7.30

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By Jon Surtees

Sydney and Linda are sitting waiting for a health visitor in their genteel suburban Yorkshire dwelling. Their pet tortoise is running amok in the garden and the doorbell rings. At the door is the long dead, highly acclaimed Kafka biographer, Max Brod. He has accidentally urinated on their tortoise. When Linda goes to the kitchen to clean the tortoise it suddenly turns into acclaimed (and also long dead) Czech novelist Franz Kafka. It is with this routine set up that Alan Bennett begins 'Kafka's Dick', a play both exploring the life of Franz Kafka and, some what inevitably, satirising the English middle classes.

This production at the Burton Taylor Theatre, although fairly simplistic in theatrical style, (a trait more than likely borne out of necessity rather than choice) is very effectively directed and features a number of stand out performances. Particular credit should go to Simon Motz and Thomas Eyre-Mansell for their portrayals of Max Brod and Kafka. They created a very believable friendship between these two characters, whilst also being able to assert the independence they both clearly felt.

Juliet Lough was also excellent as Linda, who perhaps was, as the program suggested, 'the lone voice of reason in a play of madmen.' Tristram Neal as Father was funny, but seemed rather too set on stealing each scene he was in, ahead of performing with the cast.

Bennett's play critically examines the relationship of the writer to his work, particularly in a posthumous context. This production gives ample scope to that discussion, choosing Kafka's frustration with his newly found literary identity as a main theme. Bennett was also able to squeeze in a few choice one liners, particularly Brot's beautiful comeback when defending Kafka, 'he has adjectival status in Japanese!'

The final scene of the play, one of only two set outside of Sydney and Linda's terraced Yorkshire home is a triumph for Bennett and worth seeing the entire play for. However, seeing the play itself is not a chore, particularly with a production such as this.

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