The Apparatus is a collection of writings by Franz Kafka, currently showing at the Blue Room Theatre performed by Humphrey Bower and Timothy Green. Kafka was writing in the early 1910s and 20s and Bower’s adaptation reads Kafka’s work as strangely relevant in our contemporary context. It is lucidly constructed, self-referentially avant-garde while simultaneously light-hearted and extremely heavy.
Arranged in 3 parts, the performance took a range of forms and characters. The most memorable one, the second part, featured a Bower as a burrowing sort-of animal whose obsessive compulsive tendencies manifested in a paranoid but complacent way of being. Wearing a head torch pointed down onto the face, the actor worked the pitch black stage to completely embody the creature’s “scary” story. Showing us their maze of a “home”, the character ran about the space discussing the methods in which they collect and store resources for survival. I particularly enjoyed the moments of paused monologue for a cough or a sneeze from an unsuspecting audience member.
In the third part titled, ‘In the Penal Colony’, Bower took the persona of a military officer who operated a specific torture device under the instruction of an officer-in-command. The character embodied a certain type of control and power, one that restricts and binds people. Green stood in for the to-be-tortured body, demonstrating the ‘apparatus’ at work with only subtle but powerful facial expressions. In the ‘Director’s Note’ Bower writes that this piece, “is about what’s happening right now.” Kafka’s style and prose shapes this thought as a warning about the potential for ignorance and self-annihilation.
Kafka’s abstract writings are a nice unfinished canvas for a renewal of concerns about the nature of humanity. The selection made for this performance provides an astute observation of social structures and types.
The Apparatus is very entertaining. It’s a great piece of physical theatre and recital that would appeal to most. It’s strength lies in the way that meaning is released from any concrete grounding and is suspended, floating above the audience, for them to pluck at as they wish.
Words by Molly Werner