The Fallacy of Freedom: KAFKA’S APE

The Fallacy of Freedom: KAFKA’S APE

4.5 Stars

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.

 

 

Laughter and Liberation: CHAMELEON

Laughter and Liberation: CHAMELEON

The Perth Fringe Festival has started and this weekend I got to watch this hilarious show at the Girl’s School. The vibe was amazing on a beautiful Perth Summer evening. We drank a couple of beers and my husband had some fried ice-cream. I bumped into a friend and then laughed solid for an hour while Britt Plumber looked at some of the common experiences that happen to women who conform to the people pleasing identity we are all encouraged to emulate in her one-woman show, Chameleon. 

4 stars

CHAMELEON is a one-woman show by actor and clown Britt Plumber. This hilarious production takes a frank look at gender and identity, using the chameleon as a metaphor for the way women construct their public personas. Plummer intersperses physically extravagant scenes with the reserved observations of a dry and impassive narrator to highlight gender dynamics and the overwhelming pressure women feel to please.

The audience are in on it from the start as Plummer dances her way around the room exuding all the confidence and sexual energy young, beautiful women are meant to possess. The party atmosphere is marred, however, by the unwanted sexual advances of another party-goer. The scene creates a moment of instant recognition for the audience and from here Plummer leads them through the personal but universal experiences of a woman trying to fit into the world.

Plummer is a delight. She is able to convey her encounters with a deft comic touch and the right amount of humanity and sentiment. From the innocence of childhood, to teenage flirting and ultimately to breaking point, CHAMELEON traverses the journey from conforming to liberation that many women undergo. Waves of recognition, sighs of resignation and the small moments of held breath break through the near continuous laughter as Plummer peels away the disguise’s women wear in order to present the image society has conditioned them to create.

This is a show that lingers in the audience’s mind. Like its namesake, CHAMELEON appears to be one thing but delivers so much more. Plummer walks the fine line between entertainment and sharp social critique with her blend of physical comedy, audience engagement and honest storytelling.