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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

Not quite jungle red: Britain's Got Talons

Britain's Got Talons is an interesting concept that explores the bizarre obsession for TV talent shows, the people that make them and the people that show up on them. It is set backstage behind a notorious (and fictional) talent show. When one of the judges is murdered it is left to a lowly office assistant to investigate the murder in between making teas and taking down notes from the producers.

I was curious to see this show partly due to the concept and partly due to the number of evocative words the press release:
"...Things take a sinister twist, however, when one of the judges is found murdered in her dressing room" "Meanwhile, as office assistant Stephen pieces the clues together, the grisly truth behind the show begins to emerge..." and "A gripping tale of deceit, death and duets..." Anything that claims to be gripping, sinister and grisly sounds like a fun show to me...

Although billed as a comedy there are not many laughs in this piece, and some of them feel as if they are unintentional. Also given what regularly pops up in the news sites about certain reality television shows, it is a mild affair. The only hint of aggression comes when a cast member storms in from the wings and slams something down or flings open a filing cabinet...

Video projections show flashbacks of the characters when they were more idealistic, but it would have been useful to see the projections used to push forward the story or make the most of a story about a television show. Ultimately there are not many surprises here. Nothing really goes beyond what is already known about the reality television format (it is edited, people are chosen by types, there is always a manufactured crisis to keep people tuning and so on). While still enjoyable to watch and well performed, a more successful treatment would be shocking, funny and less predictable. While I also caught the first evening, there is a bit too much fussing about on stage with making cups of teas or trousers with their zippers down that tended to pull focus.

So while the execution may not have been a success, it is an interesting concept that no doubt deserves more attention, particularly before the public tires of the freaks and repetitiveness nature of the talent show format.

Another interesting element of this production for the show is that it successfully sought funding through the Kickstarter website to fund its run. There are other shows also doing the same - including a musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho - so it is great to see another way of raising money to put on a show, whatever its size, although perhaps only if you are Zach Braff are you going to make a living out of funding things this way...

Britain's Got Talons runs at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, Highbury and Islington until 4 May. It has a 7pm start time so get there early. You can eat there at the pub but most people don't (when you see the food you will know why). It runs one hour forty five minutes which includes interval. It could also benefit from not having an interval to get the pacing right.


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