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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

Music and monarchists: Blondel @TheUnionTheatre

The legend of Richard the Lionhart's dubious rescue from captivity by his minstrel Blondel is the subject of this rock musical by Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver at the Union Theatre. With its youthful cast it's well sung and funny in a pantomime sort of way.

It's a pity that our hero Blondel (Connor Arnold) comes across less as a rock star and more of a folk singer in this version. It could do with a throbbing beat and a few guitar riffs to keep the action moving. But you'll find a few wry observations about austerity which will seem as relevant as when the show first premiered in 1983.

The story goes that King Richard (Neil Moors) heads off to the Middle East to fight Saladin for the Holy Lands. He preferred waging wars overseas than dealing with domestic business. And he takes Blondel's girlfriend Fiona (Jessie May) with him as she is a good washer woman. While away the mildly evil Prince John (James Thackeray) hires an assassin (Michael Burgen) to make sure the King never returns. Blondel heads off to rescue the King after he's captured in Europe. But he really wants to get his girl back, and tour the continent singing his catchy ditty about being a monarchist.

The show with its wry observations about prudent housewives and austerity at home no doubt excited audiences in 1983 in the era of Thatcherism. Life could be grim even eight hundred years after the period of the story.

Throughout the piece there are various references to writing bad lyrics and the struggle to write music. It's as if the musical is an in-joke. But there's also cleverness in the use of motifs and extra songs written by Mathew Pritchard used to tell the tale. Its ability to generate more than a few ear worms is part of its charm. And Chris Whittaker's choreography is used to great effect.

Directed by Sasha Regan, Blondel is at The Union Theatre until 15 July.


Photos by Scott Rylander

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