Teaching Drama Spring Term 2 2010/11 (courtesy of Rhinegold Publishing Ltd)

Thought-provoking - a masterclass in how to create and use a range of styles and practitioner influences

Splendid Productions' reputation as the touring theatre company is once again fully justified with their spellbinding adaptation of 'The Trial'. The production showcases their highly physical and imaginative approach to work, embracing a range of different theatrical styles and practitioners.

Kafka's paranoid world was effortlessly brought to life by three actors. Rosie McKay offers a brilliant performance as Josef K, effectively showing his destruction and final acceptance of his fate, and she was expertly aided by the multi-roling talents of Kerry Frampton and Jimmy Whiteaker, who, aided by simple props and costumes show how effective characterisation and theatre can be achieved in a simple way.

The audience were fully involved in the production from the start, as names were called out from the stage and direct audience address was used to intimidate and entertain. A moment of direct audience interaction, where one person was invited on stage to flog the character Block created a highly effective and disturbing shift from high comedy, as the audience were whipped to a frenzy of aggressive chanting, to genuine shock and horror as we realised that the audience member had become so caught up in the moment that he was actually prepared to flog Block onstage.

The awkward laughter and then silence that followed was hugely effective in communicating a key theme of the production - how loss of individuality and uncheck state power can manipulate and corrupt.

As always with Splendid's work, the accompanying discussion and workshop were excellent and highly useful as teaching support. The cast members expertly identified which specific elements of the production related to aspects of Epic Theatre and which came from the influences of other styles or political and social ideas. The use of physical theatre and moments of intense and stylised theatricality were discussed and students thrived on the opportunity to use these skills in a workshop setting.

Splendid Productions, in performance, workshop, theory and teaching support, go from strength to strength - they are the business.

Mat Walters

Bexley Times, 28 January 2011

Splendid Productions lived up to their name by making Kafka hilarious and accessible without diluting his gravitas.

It came as something of a relief to hear that this adaptation of The Trial was just an hour long.

Having persevered through Kafka’s memorably laborious novel about a man trapped in a world of infinite, unforgiving bureaucracy, one prepared for a tedious but no doubt interesting ride at Greenwich Theatre.

Astonishingly, Splendid Productions managed to turn this behemoth of a story into a lively, hilarious romp that balanced physical comedy perfectly with gentle yet incessant thought provocation.

With stylish composure, Rosie McKay, Kerry Frampton and Jimmy Whiteaker presented an interactive journey through ten steps of The Trial. Starting with the arrest of Josef K by two unidentified guards in his own flat, the trio follow the story faithfully to its grisly conclusion.

Armed with clipboards, the clerks seize control of the auditorium from the off by taking names and issuing orders to the cowering audience members attempting find a seat.

With an agreeable, non-confrontational humour, the entire performance was peppered with moments where one would witness this audience submit to wild, ridiculous orders – jumping through hoops like Josef K. The pinnacle of their subordination comes when they are spurred on to chant ‘Whip!’ as K witnesses one of his guards being flogged.

In a week when discussion of control orders dominates the airwaves, there really couldn’t be a more apt time for this performance to deliver such a message.

A politician was on the radio today, arguing that we should protect society by confining “around eight dangerous people” to their homes, telling them they are suspected of being guilty of a crime and yet not allowing them to know what the crime might be, if anything.

The parallel with Kafka’s story is startling. Whilst there was no tinge of a terrorist threat in The Trial, today’s audiences may treat his story as a headlong dive into the helplessness experienced by those few denied proper justice.

With a pocket-sized cast, The Trial also used minimal but effective stage design – all black, but wittily lined with red tape.

This simplicity is better than an achievement in ‘making do’. Together with the company’s unique script, it exposes the similarity between the situation of K and the actors depicting him. Lines that mocked theatrical conventions were more than jokes – they outlined the confines the actors face themselves. This kind of clever dimension you might expect to find in Stoppard, and it made this production breathlessly enjoyable.

Jules Cooper

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