by Colin Teevan based on A Report to an Academy by Franz Kafka.
Young Vic Theatre (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 11 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 1, 8 June 2.45pm.
Runs 50 minutes No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden: 24 May.
Return of a remarkable performance.
When this first appeared at the Young Vic in 2009, Carole Woddis praised it to the skies (see the reviewsgate Archive). A world tour later, it’s back, extraordinary as ever. So if a one-person show lasting under an hour, adapted from a non-dramatic source seems a poor reason for traipsing to the theatre, go anyway.
Carole analysed Franz Kafka’s point, besides praising Kathryn Hunter’s performance. There’s no need to repeat the who’s-looking-at-who substance, which is neatly summed-up by the ex-monkey turned human describing his experiences after being shot and captured. On shipboard, monkey and sailors spit in each others’ faces. “The only difference being, that afterwards I’d lick my face clean.”
Still limping from a wound, Hunter’s monkey moves eagerly, in Walter Meierjohann’s production, punctuating Colin Teevan’s clear adaptation of the story with a number of – well, monkey tricks. Given the choice between life in a zoo or in Variety, monkey chose stage over cage, and has evidently put together a strong act, offering someone a banana, picking live food from an audience head and having someone carry her a bottle.
She describes events with remarkable physicality, swinging by the arms from a ladder, breaking into a dance routine that climaxes in doing the splits. More remarkable is the way she undoes the splits afterwards, supply swinging legs that seem to revolve on universal joints. Amid this, the black-trousered legs seem to spread independently, as if her torso rose from the floor between them. Remarkable stuff.
Always, monkey and human intermix. Formally dressed, Hunter’s figure resembles Charlie Chaplin on an evening out, but her features reflect the simian which stares down at her much of the time from a screen. The species of her origin remains evident – the stiff arms, sudden movements, bent arms and legs – even as she addresses the most formal and intellectual of audiences in “an Academy”.
Like Chaplin, Hunter has remarkable technique but it expresses, rather than replaces, a sense of humanity. Her voice seems to assert and plead simultaneously, suggesting both strength and fragility in a performance that might even have cheered Kafka himself.
Red Peter, the Ape: Kathryn Hunter.
Director: Walter Meierjohann.
Designer: Steffi Wurster
Lighting: Mike Gunning.
Sound/Music: Nikola Kodjabashia.
Movement: Ilan Reichel.
Costume: Richard Hudson.
Hat Tricks Instructor: Stewart Pemberton.
Assistant director: Mia Theil Have.