I recommend the performance to playwright, poet and director Jan Antonin Pitínský , who has recently celebrated his 60th birthday, and whose production of Amerika in the middle of the eighties was a defining experience for me.
Jan Grossmann, the famous Czech literary historian and theatre director quotes from The Trial in his essay Kafka and the Theatre: “‘That's the law. ... ’ ‘I don't know this law,’ said K. ... ‘Look at this, Willem, he admits he doesn't know the law and at the same time insists he's innocent.’” Grossmann adds: “Kafka is the first poet of the modern automatized world. Automatism prioritises the form rather than the content.”
We are Karl Rossmann. Twenty five years ago we, like Karl, were enthusiastic to leave behind the communist system and step into the free world. However, we soon recognized the borders, labyrinths and dangers of the so much desired “America”. We need to answer the inevitable question: aren't we responsible for the failures and disappointments that we have experienced during the past quarter of a century? If this is how we read Kafka, we might get closer to the spirit of the novel’s stage adaptation.
We witness Karl Rossmann’s encounter with national hatred, social injustice, the world of money and power, and the world of the unemployed and homeless. At the end he himself becomes a slave of the new world, because the mechanism of money and sex represented by Brunelda, the singer, captures him too. He is confronted with the cold rejection of our society, expressed by the Student: “Give up all hope!” The way indicated to Karl by his Uncle, that is both punishment and experience, ends at the Natural Theatre of Oklahoma, and this world theatre is, in a sense, a metaphor for eternity.
The ending of the novel is open: we can consider America to be a world of automatized and instrumentalized human relationships (as Chaplin stated in Modern Times with brilliant wit), but also as a dream-world, a world where human freedom needs to rise above the horizon like an unconquerable Indian warrior who overcomes a (maybe lost) battle.
Based on the novel by Franz Kafka
Stage adaptation | Iva Klestilová, Michal Dočekal
Director | Michal Dočekal
Dramaturg | András Visky
Set designer | Martin Chocholušek
Costume designer | Zuzana Bambušek
Music | Ivan Acher
Video | Zsolt Kerekes
Karl Rossmann – Balázs Bodolai
Uncle / Servant at the Pollunders – Miklós Bács
Klara / Tereza – Enikő Györgyjakab
First officer / Master of Ceremonies/ Fyodor / Brunelda – Áron Dimény
Headwaiter / Schubal – Csilla Albert
Green / Head Cook – Kati Panek
Robinson – Gábor Viola
Delamarche – Loránd Váta
Toll-keeper / Captain / Pollunder – Attila Orbán
Stoker / Student – Ferenc Sinkó
Travelers, dancers, the company and the spectators of the Oklahoma Natural Theatre – Péter Árus, Alpár Fogarasi, Csaba Marosán, Elemér Bacsik, József Gábor Csiszér, József Csiszér, Attila Deák, Endre Erdős, Péter Hermann, Hanna Ivás, Kinga Kelemen, Lajos Major, Róbert Molnár, Tibor Molnár, János Nagy, János Platz, Szilárd Szőcs, Ildikó Varga, Csaba Veress, Timea Vincze, Réka Zongor
Opened on 27 November 2015
At the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj, Romania
All pictures © by Biró István