THE TRIAL – Young Vic

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★★
Young Vic – until 22 August 2015

GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES IS CONVEYED BY A DYSTOPIAN INJUSTICE

The auditorium is a coliseum, with a tremendous conveyor belt slicing it in half, flappy black curtains at either end. K wakes with strange agents at his door. He’s arrested. But what on earth are his crimes? Shrugs and evasion are the reply. It’s a frustrating, but gripping , pencil pushers, forms, magistrates, hookers and lawyers curdling into madness. Scenery, furniture and people are flung down the wooden and Guantanamo-orange stage with fine precision. Trials “build up” K is told early on. The only time the conveyer reverses is to take him to his death.

This adaptation, by Nick Gill (who all of a sudden makes sense when you realise he is also a composer), is frantic, funny, strange and incredibly difficult to settle with early on. The dialogue is fine, although K’s asides and monologues are written almost in fragments. “Am almost woke ee up one morn -like baby”, are his first lines. It’s hard to tune to, you’re hardly tapping your feet along either. But this aside, the rest of the dialogue is incredibly engaging with good jokes and juicy lines.

It drifts on, we pick fragments – things he might have done wrong, solutions to his crisis, idle conversation – usually with another layer of people speaking on top of this. But it clicks. It has a strange frustrating rhythm which winds you and K up as heaps of court forms rise, unbelievable injustice is done and little sense is made. The story is clear but neatly obfuscates the legality. Richard Jones has thankfully staged this to perfection: somehow my attention was drawn to exactly the right snippets, and as people whizzed on and off it all mushed into meaning in the middle. Miriam Buether’s set is a workhorse which deserves lashings of oats for mechanically driving all this.
“We can only hope that information of tangential relevance slithers its way down to us”. Sian Thomas’s gloriously vague lawyer tells K. Rory Kinnear is excellent at the frustration, but the monologues don’t sit in his mouth properly. He has to engage all his training to enunciate, giving us clipped when what we need is panic. The rest is powerful rage, neatly drawn.

It is Kate O’Flynn, however, who steals the show as a host of characters. In this straight laced, authoritarian world, her brand of wild giver-of-no-shits perks things up brilliantly. Where many have to remain almost robotic and scenic, her, Rory’s and Sian’s performances fill in with beautiful colour.
It is maddeningly strange, but it still clings to me and haunts me.

Box Office: 020 7922 2922 22nd August.
Rating: four

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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