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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

Easy Extensions and free love: Hair #jointhetribe @thevaultsuk

Last week marked the fiftieth anniversary of Hair. It's the original rock / concept musical about hippies, the anti-war movement and Western hypocrisy. And with this slick and seductive production, you would have to be a member of the alt-right to not want to join the tribe and get up and dance.

The cast, the music, the production and the performances make this not just a must see show, but one that deserves repeat viewings. You get a sense of the freshness and fun that must have amazed and shocked audiences fifty years ago.

The underground space of The Vaults at Waterloo have been transformed into an immersive enclave for the alternative. There's a strong ensemble cast with seductive vocals (and bodies). There's also a terrific sound from the band under the music direction of Gareth Bretherton.

From the moment the piece opens with the song Aquarius, sung at full belt by Shekinah McFarlane, it's a non-stop ride. And it's hard not to groove along to songs you may already know but didn't appreciate they're from Hair.

It's less a story but an exploration of religion, sex, war and race. There's Berger (Andy Coxon), who is the free spirit of the tribe of young people. They're protesting against conscription and a lot more. Mostly its about the loss of the American dream at the expense of the military industrial complex. Where you're a number. And fodder for fighting war, not for being free to do what you wish.

The irony that a young group of hippies are the true patriots of America is a key point in this show. His girlfriend is Sheila (Laura Johnson), a university activist. And there is his close friend Claude (Robert Metson) who has just got his draft card. Claude's struggle about what to do then becomes the central focus of the piece.

There's a vulnerability to the characters too. Despite all the free love and fun there is uncertainty and anxiety. It culminates in the first act finale song Where Do I Go, where they are all exposed. When first staged, this nudity was controversial. But naked and uncertain, it isn't titillating. It feels very human. Although for a show set in 1967, there's quite a bit of manscaping and lady-gardening going on in this production.

Hair the musical also reminds of of a time when protests and disagreement could exist without violence. There are no safe spaces or shut down of campuses. And battles may be lost but the war of ideas is ongoing. And that's worth fighting for.

Directed by Jonathan O'Boyle, Hair the musical is at The Vaults until 13 January. Grab your best kaftan and go.


Photos by Claire Bilyard

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