Joseph K is a chaotic and thought provoking production that is playing in May at Limelight on Oxford. It’s shown to an intimate audience of up to about 50 patrons and has a great way of activating the space and my attention. The dialogue is lively with its back and forth to it and is rather snappy in its wit. The performers have a rather goofy and dark way about their comedic delivery and were ultimately engaging to watch. There were a few zingers in there that really made me laugh aloud at its absurdity. Running for over 2 hours this play is a little on the long side and some of its scenes do drag on, however the boldness of the performers kept me involved through it all.
The absurdism of the play builds throughout in a recognisably Kafkaesque manner as the protagonists world seems to dissolve around them. The rules of the world are constantly shifting and changing, so as we follow Joseph K it feels like becoming stuck in a whirlpool and it’s truly engrossing. While the play is rather heavy on the dialogue, it really picked up some steam after intermission with some interesting physicality and imagery. The second half started and ended with a bang.
Dramaturgically, the driving message of the play is a little difficult to locate. I can see a looming frustration with the judicial system and the action seems to point towards a critique of citizenship and surveillance. However with the way that our protagonist is presented, the play made me think more about classism and privilege than anything else. Joseph K is written as an arrogant, rich bully who is continually putting himself before others. When his world falls apart as a result of his ambiguous arrest it felt like poetic justice. I saw many scenes of Joseph trying to put it all back together and failing, without taking much away except frustration. He was continually classing those around him as inferior and accepted no help, even at the worst of times. The question that I asked throughout was “Will Joseph K learn kindness?” and that was not answered.
Especially with its closing images, it felt like this court, policing or government system that loomed over Josephs head was supposed to make me think about injustice, but the way that I felt about Joseph K meant that I didn’t really pine for him. This curiously layered storytelling had me contemplating the whole way home while and I still can’t put my finger on what I was meant to think, I certainly left thinking.
This play is ideal to watch and then theorise over with friends. I appreciate its commitment classic philosophy and literature, and that it was ambitiously thought provoking. Joseph K is presented by Secret House and runs until May 1 at Limelight on Oxford, for more information and tickets see: http://limelightonoxford.com.au/joseph-k.php
Director: Sean O’Riordan
Featuring: Matt Barlett, Georgia Brindley, Michael Brindley, Elouise Eftos, Phoebe Heath, Tim Kemp, Deborah Faye Lee, Naomi Lees, James Smither and Danen Young.