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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

My night with Ben (and Kam and Russ and AJ and Simon): Jock night @7DialsPlayhouse

Some of the PR to Jock Night says London is about to get a taste of Manchester with this piece. You could interpret that many ways, but it does feel as if you become immersed in a particular Mancunian world of sex, drugs and Coronation Street. Written and directed by Adam Zane, it's a sharp-tongued, drug-fuelled odyssey into an unconventional world with more than a few sharp observations about life in the gay ghetto. It's currently playing at the 7 Dials Playhouse

The play is set in Ben's bedroom and revolves around a famous party night in Manchester where the dress code requires jocks or sportswear. After the party finishes, then come the drugs. Then the sex and then the chillout, and then they do it all over again. But Ben (David Paisley) is also looking for love - albeit in all the wrong places. 

His friends are Kam (Sam Goodchild), a quick-witted man from Sussex who found a home in Manchester. Then there's Russell (Matthew Gent), a gym bunny and aspiring Instagram influencer. A night out ends with AJ (Levi Payne) joining them. And then, a moderately known porn performer Simon (George Hughes), answers a dating app message, and there are five. But AJ's from Doncaster and doesn't understand about playing safely. Simon is out of control and struggling with multiple addictions. With such a premise, expect only an unconventional ending. 

Yet, for a story that involves sex, and a lot of it, it's not a particularly erotic story. Instead, interspersed with Victoria Wood one-liners and the various drama arcs of Coronation Street, there are more digs at gay life in the Village. The endless hookups, the multiple dating apps, the drugs to get you up, take you down and keep you from catching something. When the newly written second act comes around, the message is clear that the party is over. 

The cast works hard to deliver the comedy and drama, bearing their souls as they bare their buttocks in various jockstraps throughout the play's two hours.

But Zane has given the audience a gentle ride through the wild, crazy hedonism. With a mix of filthy talk, innuendo and bawdy laughs, he throws out a few life lessons and wry observations. Particularly as the play juxtaposes all the freedoms that gay men can enjoy post-Stonewall, post-AIDS crisis while remaining trapped in a culture partly of their own making. And in doing so, we potentially have an important new gay play for our time. Time will tell whether it was all just a phase. 

Written and directed by Adam Zane, Jock Night is at the 7 Dials Playhouse until 4 November. 


Photos by Dawn Kilner 

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