Tag Archives: Franz Kafka


Report to an Academy

Old Red Lion Theatre


Report to an Academy

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 7th July 2022


“the staged narrative builds to nowhere—when McNamara exits the stage for a second time, it is difficult to tell the play has concluded”


In an inauspicious opening moment, Robert McNamara enters the stage with a cane. With each step, he smacks the cane on the ground in front of him and yanks both feet forward—a cheap Chaplin imitation and a frankly offensive attempt to play a physical disability for laughs. Report to an Academy, Scena Theatre’s one-man adaptation of a Kafka story of the same name (set to endure a long run at the Old Red Lion), fails to improve upon this moment. It smacks of an ill-considered vanity project throughout.

The play remains true to its source material in a literal sense, lifting most of the text and narrative from the Kafka story verbatim. An ape named Red Peter, played by McNamara, details his capture, his traumatic transfer to Germany, and the process by which he learned to perform human behaviour. Perhaps the short story, which is intentionally somewhat anticlimactic, could have used more intervention in order for it to be properly adapted for the stage. Instead adaptor/director Gabrielle Jakobi adopts a rigid approach, leaning into the anticlimax. As it stands, the staged narrative builds to nowhere—when McNamara exits the stage for a second time, it is difficult to tell the play has concluded. The runtime, a scant forty minutes, is the play’s only relief.

McNamara’s physical and vocal mannerisms feel at once incessant and scattershot, caricaturish and unclear. His garish limp is inconsistent—at times he waves his cane wildly, ditching the physicality entirely. And though he gesticulates with the cane, the prop never transforms, remaining an aimless extremity. He often seems to interpret randomly selected words literally, either through gesture or intonation, which neither elucidates nor amuses. Perhaps this choice is intended to portray the process of Red Peter’s acquisition of language, but one has to squint and contort to see a directorial justification. More likely, the choice is folded into McNamara’s lazy decision to “play madness”, shouting singular words at random and making faces throughout his performance.

One particular sound cue is repeated throughout the production—a short, sombre, semi-orchestral excerpt that coincides with Red Peter’s initial captivity on a ship. Its subsequent repetitions arrive without much context, and the sound becomes a low-effort shorthand to portray the character’s sadness.

The source material itself, which allegorically deals with themes of colonization and assimilation, seems to be lost on Jakobi and McNamara, as evidenced by the painfully rudderless performance and unthinking programme notes. It is difficult to understand why the play was staged at all.



Reviewed by JC Kerr

Photography by J. Yi Photography


Report to an Academy

Old Red Lion Theatre until 30th July


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Tomorrow May Be My Last | ★★★★★ | May 2022


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Metamorphosis – 4 Stars



Bread & Roses Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd October 2018


“this highly original piece surpasses the usual version of events”


‘…at least, that’s how it should have happened.’

When the subject of a story is written about in a compelling, expressive, even beautiful manner, it is difficult to imagine that there could be any other aspect of the plot worth mentioning. Reading Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, for example, it is hard to remember that the Samsa family have lives beyond obsessing over their son Gregor – a former travelling salesman who is now a giant insect. To be fair this is a pretty gripping plot; nonetheless, it leaves questions that are long overdue answers.

In this thought-provoking reimagining of Kafka’s tale, Sam Chittenden proposes and skilfully answers the question – “Who is Grete Samsa?” By her own admission, Grete’s role in the story is very much, ‘the sister did this, the daughter did that’. But who is she beyond this? For Chittenden, she is a young girl undergoing a transformation as dark and difficult as that of her brother: puberty. Simultaneously, the two siblings face the feeling of waking up in a new body, of being changed and looked at with newfound fascination. The only difference is that, unlike her brother, Grete must endure it unsupported, unnoticed, and unloved.

“The Metamorphosis” has been retold countless times; this highly original piece surpasses the usual version of events. Chittenden’s script is engaging and cleverly uses aspects of the original story in new and effective ways. She uses the concept of a grotesque transformation to explore the feelings of adolescent girls as their bodies change. This shift in identity (from girl to woman) is no less daunting than the prospect of waking up and finding yourself changed into an insect or animal: both displace stability and lead to confusion, hurt, and anger. Simultaneously, Chittenden keeps Kafka’s tale in focus, drawing engaging portraits of the entire Samsa family and generally refining areas that were neglected in the original.

Grete is effortlessly bought to life by Heather-Rose Andrews. Andrews effortlessly transitions between the adult and adolescent Grete, vocally and physically capturing their respective emotional cores with ease. One moment she has the audience suspended in rapture as she details a horrific instance of sexual assault; the next, her tone is light and frivolous as she mocks her parents’ inability to notice anything beyond their son’s predicament. The unfussy set – Gregor’s briefcase sits downstage, Grete’s bed upstage – allows Andrews to weave her way through the space uninterrupted, and the small moments of physical theatre add some accents of Kafkaesque absurdity. Unfortunately, the persistent music sometimes undermines the subtly of Andrews’ performance. She is more than capable of portraying the emotional depth that this piece requires of her, and it is a shame that the music artificially attempts to do this on her behalf.

Metamorphosis is a polished and beautifully executed show which deserves a much wider audience. Not only is it an enjoyable piece of theatre, but it adds to the conversation surrounding Kafka’s work and asks important questions of this iconic and much-interpreted story.


Reviewed by Harriet Corke



Bread & Roses Theatre as part of the Clapham Fringe Festival


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Austen The Musical | ★★★★ | January 2018
Blue Moon | ★★★ | January 2018
F*ckingLifeMate | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Talos II | ★★★ | March 2018
The Buzz | ★★★ | May 2018
Once a Year on Blackpool Sands | ★★★★ | June 2018
Richard II – Shakespeare | ★★ | August 2018


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