Saturday, 30 July 2011

Kafka and Son – Theaturtle (Assembly)

Alon Nashman talks about how his Kafka and Son is returning to Edinburgh Fringe.

How has the play developed in the past year, as it has discovered success? Why have you decided to return to the Fringe?
Last year I was completely bitten by the Festival, intoxicated with the cross-pollination of ideas and performance. The Flawless crew and Maori cheiftan Tame Iti of MAU came to see my play about Kafka, and I saw them in action. I knew I had to return, and I knew I wanted to introduce Edinburgh audiences to the work of Wajdi Mouawad, playwright of Alphonse. I also realized how much I needed to bring back Kafka and Son. Some great feedback, reviews and comments came out near the end of the run. It was just picking up momentum as we were leaving.

When the play was developed, why did Kafka stand out for you as a subject in himself?
Kafka can be seen as the canary in the mine of the 20th century, particularly sensitive to the absurdity, nastiness, and the beauracratic precision of the new fascism. Kafka's writing is full of foreboding, embarassing in it's honesty, but above all to me, delightfully, darkly hilarious.

How does the play approach the father-son relationship? Is there anything universal in Kafka's relationship to his dad?
When director Mark Cassidy introduced me to the revelatory letter Kafka wrote to his father I sensed its inherent theatricality. Kafka wrote his father into the letter, as a challanger, an accuser, someone always ready to set the record straight. Towards the end of the letter the Father is conjured in full, and like a Frankenstein monster he is unleased, and father essentially destroys his son's arguments. So there is a built-in dialogue between father and son, an epic conflict between mighty opposites.

What process did you use to develop the performance from the original letter?
Adaptation was a 2 year process of whittling the text of the letter, and of reading Kafka biographies, fiction, short stories and letters. In the end director Cassidy and I wove material from other Kafka works in which Fathers and Sons are prominent into the play. Themes of sons trying to release themselves from the crushing influence of fathers, of artists being misunderstood by society, and of people being abused or ignored by authority, dominate Kafka's writing. It is clear from the letter that Kafka's first experience of these dynamics was at home with his father.

What the play adds to this theatrical set-up is a degree of compassion for the father, a man of commerce and industry saddled with a sensitive son who traces all his insecurites on father. A fascinating result of this play is that it polarizes the audience into two camps, one which sympathizes with Franz and the other which sees the situation through the Father's eyes.

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