Left – Tim Kemp and Danen Young. Cover – Danen Young. Photos – Clare Hawley
Practical politics and current events fuse in Joseph K, Tom Basden’s absurdist dystopian farce modelled on Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
Like Joseph K in Ivan Klima’s play, The Castle, the titular Joseph K in Basden’s play disquiets the status quo so deeply that in effect he signs his own death warrant. In this sensational adaptation, Joseph K is a merchant banker who wakes on his thirtieth birthday to find he is under arrest, utterly baffled as to the whys and wherefores.
The arresting officers don't seem to know why either and so Joseph K assumes its all some terrible mistake that can be fixed. But a monolithic and seemingly monster bureaucracy married to a broken judicial system keeps stonewalling him sending him deeper into paranoia. How much of a person belongs to authority and how much to himself burns the question in the bitter and hellish hilarity of this absurd narrative.
Danen Young plays young Joseph K with great gusto, spinning and spiralling from defence and attack and back, trying for reason in an unreasonable scenario, pitched into paranoia when his own defences are breached. The rest of the equally capable cast double and bubble giving Joseph no end of trouble.
Matt Bartlett affects a fetching Taffy lilt to Morton Preece, patiently appeasing to score a professional appraisal from Joseph, an oasis of calm in a surging storm of chaos. Georgia Brindley is a steely Natalie Spicer, cool and chic state sanctioned assassin. Michael Brindley as her side kick Gabe, aka the Grub, plays clueless to great comic capacity. Elouise Eftos as Joseph’s sister Alison mixes the sisterly support with a subtle sibling rivalry. Phoebe Heath as assorted receptionists and a doll is alternately cheeky and cheerful and vague and vacuous. Tim Kemp as the camp solicitor and doll fetishist, Ian Hud also doubles as the onomatopoeic Bear, a glazier who sees through the pane and is on the ornamental glass graft. Deborah Faye Lee as Joseph’s work colleague Wendy, who just might be subtly undermining him for promotion, is a sincere sensation. Naomi Lees does delicate in triplicate as a PA, a doll, and a seldom supine slumberer. And James Smithers impresses as various henchmen/handymen, as well as being credited as set designer.
Directed with great rigour and energy by Sean O’Riordan, Joseph K is a splendid spotlight on how state security can seed insecurity in the individual.
Secret House presents
by Tom Basden
Director Sean O'Riordan
Venue: Limelight on Oxford | 231 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW
Dates: 1 – 18 May 2019
Tickets: $40 – $30