I was fortunate enough to see Kafka’s Ape at the Perth Fringe Festival this year. This show, based on Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, is not for the faint-hearted but is deeply affecting. Sixty minutes vanished as I was spellbound by an incredible performance that moved the audience and the performer alike. This is an intelligent, thought-provoking and disturbing re-imagination of the original that modernises and builds on Kafka’s original. If you have the chance, this is a must-see show.
KAFKA’S APE is a solo piece about an ape’s forced evolution into human society. This production is based on the Franz Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, first published in 1917.
Kafka’s work is renowned for its existential enquiries into the nature of self and identity, and the production brings a new layer of complexity through this adaptation.
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, KAFKA’S APE reworks the original to delve into the depths of not just was it is to be human, but also what it is to survive within the confines of humanity’s cage.
As actor Tony Bonani Miyambo enters the room, the audience is in no doubt that he is an ape. From his great loping steps, to the finest details of his hand movements, his physical transformation is impeccable. As he addresses the audience, the ‘esteemed members of the academy’ to which his performance is directed, Miyambo’s Red Peter is both a frightened creature and cultured scientific triumph. An uneasy duality that lays bare the concept of civilisation and the act of civilising.
KAFKA’S APE is brilliant as much for the moments it adapts Kafka’s original as for the moments that remain faithful to it. Miyambo’s performance is evocative and mesmerising, with the apposition of his physical rendering of Red Peter and the articulate dialogue heightened by the sparse staging and dramatic lighting. Space and light work together to show the competing elements of the ape’s nature as he grapples in the dark to supress his ape-ness, and grapples with the light to display his humanity. The culmination of which leaves the audience in little doubt that all are complicit in the mechanisms of oppression.
KAFKA’S APE is a profoundly disturbing and thought-provoking production. Over one-hundred years since the publication of the original, KAFKA’S APE reminds us that the questions of what forms identity, what is freedom and what are we willing to do to survive, continue to be relevant.