By Franz Kafka
Première February 14, 2015 at the Slovene National Theatre of Drama Ljubljana
Running time 2 hours 50 minutes, one interval
WHAT I SAW
At the top of the play, the stage is mostly empty. The two defining characteristics are a white mound upstage, representative of snow, and a grid of thin wire which stretches out into the audience. At the top of the play, an older woman enters and stands below a microphone, hung high from the grid. She looks at it helplessly – too far below it for her voice to reach. A man brings her a chair. She is still far from the microphone, but no matter. Music begins, and she lip syncs to a song sung by a male opera singer. What follows is a montage of images, some seen later in the play (twins chased by a menacing superior) and some left unexplained (taxidermied fox and deer, large blue bouncy balls, furniture moving on its own accord).
A man rolls down the white mound. He is our protagonist, the Land Surveyor, called upon by the powers that be in the town to visit and…well, survey it, I suppose. However, he can’t seem to connect with those that summoned him: they all reside in the Castle, which he (and the townspeople) are forbidden to enter. While attempting to connect his contact, a Castle Official named Klamm, the Land Surveyor meets and falls in love with a young bar maid named Frieda, finds himself “assisted” by a pair of troublesome twins, and takes up work as the local school’s janitor. All the while he attempts and fails repeatedly to gain access to the Castle and meet Klamm.
The world of this production feels Beckettian in its sparse coldness, like a David Lynch film in its more surreal moments. The space stays largely open throughout, using the full depth of the stage, so that scenes occur in one area, while action, or inaction, groups of drinking townspeople huddled in back corners, may happen elsewhere, simultaneously. Costumes are black and white across the board, and set pieces don’t stray far from this palette. Characters pop in and out of scenes as if in a dream, at times a nightmare.. At certain moments, the entire cast appears upstage, all eyes trained on the Land Surveyor who often seems lost, uncertain.
At the play’s close, the Land Surveyor has lost his love, his job, and his will to get to the Castle and to Klamm. He lies down to rest, and dies.
WATCH A TRAILER FOR THE CASTLE:
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size: Cast 16
Touring Size: Cast of 16, 21 technicians, 5 escorts, 42 in total
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 17m, 8m, 12m
Maximum height/width/depth of stage: 20m, 15m, 12m
Load in time: 12 hours
Strike time: 2 hours
Cartage Information: Puller
Translation Options: subtitles/surtitles available
Representing Agent: Jernej Pristov, Public Relations Manager of SNT Drama Ljubljana, +386 31 626 912, email@example.com
Availability: This production is available to tour until at least 2019.
Director: Janusz Kica
Between 1986 and 1989, Kica worked as the assistant director and later on as the director of the German theatre Wuppertaller Bühnen. Following this, Kica directed as a freelance director in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Croatia and from 1994 also in Slovenia. He was twice awarded at the Days of Comedy in Celje as Gracious Director and five times at the Maribor Theatre Festival (1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2005). His production of The Three Musketeers was selected as the best production in Croatia in 1996. Chico is also the recipient of the Sterijino pozorje Award (2006).
Theatre: Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana
Slovenian National Theatre Drama Ljubljana (shortens to SNT Drama Ljubljana) is the oldest theatre institution in the country, founded by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. It is the central Slovenian repertory theatre house and one of the culturally most influential institutions in the region, with a permanent 45-member ensemble. It has won numerous Slovenian and international awards. The outstanding potential of SNT Drama Ljubljana is portrayed by the plays chosen for its repertoire, the directors and their production teams and most importantly, by the artistic interpretations of Drama’s ensemble. In the last two decades, Drama has presented excellent productions in more than thirty countries around the world.
WRITINGS AND REVIEWS
Kafka's Castle staged in Drama. Radio Slovenija 1, 15. 2. 2015, Events and reactions, 15:42
Everything undertaken by the mathematically pedantic K. ends up as either a miscommunication or something completely different than expected. Entangling himself with whole force in the plot's vicious cycle, sowing misfortune and shame all around him. Through all this dark awkwardness humour trickles through, baring witness to Kafka's contemporaneity. As we laugh, we laugh at ourselves. K. ends up sitting in the snow infinitely tired. It doesn't matter that he didn't hear the words of a Secretary from the Castle, his tiredness is actually an indestructible peace, a calmness. Kica and his team masterfully control the stage, the switching of place and scenes in a fast, smoothly executed manner. The rest, and what is the most a 16 person ensemble is possible of achieving, lead by Šturbej and Juh, who have nailed the characters of K. and Frida down to the last detail. - Dušan Rogelj
Kafka's Castle staged in space and time. Siol.net, 16. 2. 2015, 13:05
Šturbej's K., including other performers, bet on humour, which amplifies the grotesqueness of the situation which entraps them. (...) K.'s internal monologue, which also describes space and time is solved with a dictaphone and as Ferčec wrote in the performance booklet, K. becomes agent Cooper from Twin Peaks, who, instead of investigating his main problem – what the heck he’s actually doing in this village and what the castle actually is – preoccupies himself with the relations of the villagers, who feed him their ideas about their laws and orders. - Deja Crnovič
Evaluating: The Castle. Delo.si, 16. 2. 2015, 21:00
What is hidden in Kafka's prose in detailed descriptions of slow moving verbosity, the adaption by Goran Ferčec condenses into a stable structure and releases the performance in a dynamic and humorous tempo (...). Individual scenes and various scenes Kica orchestrates as a fluent wave of events, a single well-tempered whole – visually attractive – an adventure of diverse, hard to grasp villager personalities. The orchestral harmony is achieved by outstanding performances of the whole ensemble, precise, passionate and full of life. - Nika Arhar
REFLECTIONS BY KELLIE
This piece was a case of a clear vision poorly executed. The various parts did not add up to a deeply felt or lived experience. I felt disengaged throughout the entirety of the production, struggling, in fact, to stay awake. It was very clear to me what the production was attempting to do: to create a world that is absurd and surreal for our Land Surveyor, one that he tries and fails to get the better of. As mentioned, I believe it was meant to offer a Lynchian mix of the comedic and uncanny. I saw the would-be creepy hotel manager attempting to lurk near our hero. I watched the would-be clownish twins attempt Marx-brothers-like pratfalls and escapes, at one point being locked in a dresser and immediately coming out the back, free as birds. I listened to sound cues that told me I should feel unnerved, others that suggested I should be amused, but I felt neither emotion.
Over the course of my time at the Maribor Festival, I saw several of these actors do excellent work in other productions, so I believe the issues I had with the piece were primarilyBut directorial. In attempting to create a unique tone that was a mashup of several, the director instead made something muddy, unspecific. There were some beautiful stage pictures, and the aesthetic of the piece elicited a sense of a world slightly off its axis, but the content of the production never lived up to the space it lived within. It is possible the company was hampered a bit by the theater in which they performed: one of the producers of the festival suggested it was quite different than their usual performance space, and indeed it seemed they struggled to fill it. But I am not convinced this production would have worked better in a differently sized space: different concept, maybe.