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Kafka-ish: Kafka @Finborough

In offering proof that Kafka is everything to everyone - writer-performer Jack Klaff plays various roles, including the man himself in what is a part tour, part immersion and part legend of Franz Kafka. He is a writer who achieved fame after his life was cut short due to succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of forty. He is probably better known for his reputation and the Kafkaesque style attributed to his writing than his life. But after this piece, you’re left curious to learn more about the man and his works. And that has to be the best theatrical tribute you could give a writer, even for a writer who stipulated that his works be destroyed upon his death. It’s currently playing at the Finborough Theatre . Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. In 1901, he was admitted to a university and began studying law. While studying, he met Max Brod, who would become his best friend and eventual literary executor. Brod would posthumously publish many of his works and writings. Kafka’s life co

Opera: The Emperor of Atlantis

Tuesday evening was an opportunity to catch the first preview of The Emperor of Atlantis (otherwise known as Der Kaiser von Atlantis) by Viktor Ullmann. The production is the first from the recently formed Dioneo Opera Company, which is focusing on contemporary and lesser-known works. Based on this production, their future looks very promising.

Continuing the trend in London of imaginative productions with incredibly talented, energetic (loud) young performers, this production of the chamber opera is emotional and gripping. It is nicely staged with some fine singing. Unlike other small-scale opera productions where there was simply a piano accompaniment, there is the Dioneo Players under the direction of John Murton, emphasising the dramatic musical expression of the work. Or maybe as I was sitting above them, I could feel the full dramatic force...

The piece was written by Czech-Jewish composer, Viktor Ullmann in 1943 in the Nazi concentration camp of Terezin. The story approaches the Holocaust from an absurdist perspective building to a haunting, redemptive chorale. It was never performed there as the Nazi's saw the similarities between the emperor and Hitler and banned the piece. Shortly afterwards the composer and librettist were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz. The manuscript survived and had its first performance in 1975. Watching the piece is like discovering a new eyewitness account of a well-known atrocity as it alternates between despair and optimism.

Their very short initial run at the Cello Factory in Waterloo (an unexpected place for an opera) followed by a run later in the year to the Arcola Theatre in August. It will no doubt benefit from a space suited to theatre, but Waterloo location has other benefits, such as being in central London with a great little pub The White Heart opposite.

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