Yes – you heard me. Dick. And I don’t mean Richard. Pardon my English. I’m not being crass. It’s a play. Not on words – an actual play. A theatrical production. In a theater. Kafka’s Dick.
Do you know it? No? Let me illuminate you. Kafka’s Dick is the current production being performed by the Copenhagen Theatre Circle on stage now at Kruttønden café theatre in Østerbro. I was lucky enough to attend Wednesday night’s premier, another tick in the pro column of my “say yes” to new experiences agenda.
…a novel experience.” – Kafka’s Dick
Copenhagen Theatre Circle
April 13th -23rd, 2016
Serridslevvej 2, 2100 København Ø
Copenhagen Theatre Circle (CTC) is a group of English speaking actors living here in Denmark who strive to put on several plays and one very English pantomime each year. In English. Theater in English. Thank you very much. Oh sorry. Was that flip? Is it a mark against my attempted assimilation that I admittedly enjoyed watching theater offered in English in Denmark? I hope not. Please say no. I’m still working hard on integrating here. But being able to enjoy a cultural outing in your native tongue was a revelation and welcome respite from the constant daily foreign language consumption.
Kafka’s Dick is set in England, not ironically. Sorry, I said dick again. It is in the title. I did not make that shit up. English author and playwright Alan Bennett did. If it offends you, maybe this is not the play for you. It’s his work and he, Alan Bennett himself (*wink, *wink – or a rather spot impersonation by CTC actor Lee Elms) attended a CTC rehearsal recently right here in Copenhagen. And apparently, Bennett approves. Gold star, high marks, A level. Good work. Bennett (er rather, Elms) admits that “…this lot have the measure of Kafka’s Dick better than I do.” See here for yourself. 😉
Actors come to a performance slowly. Blind alleys have to be gone down. Toes slid gingerly towards her.” – Lee Elms impersonating Alan Bennett
The convention upon which the play is built sets the stage in the opening scene. The Czech writer Franz Kafka (intensely played by Pejman Khorsand-Jamal) and his best friend Max Brod (perfectly cast Andrew Whalley) discuss Kafka’s sense of his own impending death. Kafka – expressly disgusted by his own existence – demands that his “faithful friend” Brod promise to destroy all of his writing, published and not, after he dies. Although Brod questions his friend’s dramatics and tries to convince Kafka of his potential immortality through words, he agrees to “search and destroy” all of the author’s works posthumously. Famous last words. Let the wild rumpus begin.
Words are the worst method of communicating ever.” – Kafka, Kafka’s Dick
Cut to: A modern suburban English household. Home of wannabe literary groupie, but insurance salesman, Sydney (Lee Elms); his wife Linda (Johanne Wang-Holm) and Sydney’s aging mother (Stephanie Carlsen.) Anticipating the arrival of a social worker set to interview mother for the old folks’ home, the threesome instead unwittingly welcome a fantastical reunion between the now dead Kafka, his dead best friend Brod and Kafka’s dead father Hermann (played by CTC director Frank Theakston). What? Hard to believe? Of course it is. That’s the crux of the farce. But if you know the writings of Kafka, whose own book Metamorphosis entailed a man waking up transformed into a giant cockroach (er,…beetle), then the idea that the pet turtle could turn into Kafka on stage doesn’t seem quite so random, bizarre or strange.
I don’t want to be understood.” – Kafka, Kafka’s Dick
What if you don’t know the collective works of Kafka, all those books that his faithful friend Brod failed to burn? Spoiler alert. It’s ok. Don’t worry – I didn’t give too much away. This unveiling of the betrayal is half the comedy and there is still plenty to enjoy in this well-played production. Witty, dry, English in its comedic sensibilities – there are numerous laugh out loud funny moments. But this is an intellectual play. Deep. Thinking. And I personally think the women stole the show. Ironic, as they are portrayed as the daft, silly, non-thinking entities on stage.
You’re not nothing. You’re my wife.” Sydney to Linda, Kafka’s Dick
Modern day here takes on a more vintage retro sensibility from the 1950’s – especially in the subordinate roles given the women. Stephanie Carlsen – a CTC veteran – playing the confused spinster steals every scene she enters and affords much of the comic relief here. CTC newcomer, Johanne Wang-Holm portrays the wife Linda as saucy and strong (not stupid). While she flirts with Kafka and defends him with sweetness, we sense her character has more to say than her husband is willing to listen.
And listen you should. Well played indeed. I enjoyed the Copenhagen Theatre Circle’s production of Kafka’s Dick. (Last time I promise.) Maybe not non-stop hilarity, roll on the floor laughing, but charming and thought-provoking and engaging. Especially in the intimate atmosphere of the cozy Kruttønden venue. Get your tickets now. Playing through April 23rd. For more information and tickets, see here Copenhagen Theatre Circle.