Rose Robinson

Beetlemania: Kafka for Kids


Pleasance Dome (Queen), Edinburgh

Kafka? For kids? Really? It doesn’t sound like a goer, to be honest. But – it turns out – Kafka can indeed be repurposed for kids, and rendered funny and entertaining for adults too.

I’m vaguely familiar with Kafka’s work. I first encountered Die Verwandlung while studying for a degree in German literature, and then – during a second degree course, this time in theatre studies – met up with its English translation (Metamorphosis) via Berkoff’s infamous production. I’ve read The Trial, too, and The Castle, but not recently; in short, I know just about enough to be sure that Beetlemania: Kafka for Kids will have to pull something rather special out of the bag if it is to hit its mark. And does it? Oh yes, it really does.

The show is a delight from start to finish, the deceptive simplicity of the knockabout comedy concealing some clever structural stuff, and layered references to Kafka’s obsessions and stylistic tics. It’s all there: humanity-crushing bureaucracy, alienation, despair. There’s poverty too, and hope – and much absurdity. And, in Tom Parry (he of Pappy’s fame)’s script, it all comes together to make a genuinely funny and illustrative hour of fun – for all the family.

Parry stars in the show as well, as Karl, the hapless entertainer who’s inadvertently robbed a Royal Mail van, the contents of which serve as makeshift set and props. He’s joined by Will Adamsdale, who plays the troupe’s frustrated leader, Karter, and Heidi Niemi (Kat), who speaks Finnish throughout. The trio are interrupted, intermittently, by the marvellous Rose Robinson (last seen by Bouquets & Brickbats in Great British Mysteries: 1599? earlier this week), who plays a series of officious bureaucrats, each one more demanding than the last.

We’re introduced to miserable tales, where Poseidon is crushed by the weight of his paperwork, where a bridge loses faith in its ability to connect. We’re drawn in, made accomplices; we tell lies to officials to protect the performers. The kids in the audience are utterly enthralled. We don’t have any kids with us, but we are entranced too.

It’s a rainy day, so numbers are down; it’s a shame to see so many empty seats when the material is as good as this. Any families out there looking for something quirky, something different – I urge you to give this a go.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

Great British Mysteries: 1599?


Pleasance Courtyard

Great British Mysteries: 1599? is one of those shows that seems tailor-made for the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s deceptively simple but highly effective. Two actors in slightly dodgy Tudor costumes? Check! An absurdly convoluted story about a search for a mysterious witch? Check! And a collection of truly terrible jokes delivered with such verve and aplomb that they somehow transcend their humble origins to become laugh-out-loud funny? Double check! Thanks to the talents of Will Close and Rose Robinson, who (don’t take this the wrong way, you two) have expressive faces that were just made for comedy, this is probably one of the most enjoyable hours you’ll spend on this year’s Fringe.

Thomas Tyrell and Olive Bacon encounter each other on the streets of London in er… well, 1599 (obviously) and, recognising that they have many things in common, decide to embark upon careers as detectives. Thomas is extremely fond of recounting his years as a sailor alongside Sir Walter Raleigh, while Olive is a mistress of disguise, who spends much of her time trying to teach the (decidedly thick) Thomas how to deliver a punchline. There are artfully placed running gags about bear baiting and the six wives of Henry the Eighth, while a large screen behind the duo offers us a succession of amusing images to help propel the story along. Oh yes, there’s also a mysterious priest who delivers his sermons in the form of contemporary song lyrics, a pig who seems to be  permanently fertile, and the added delight of watching Thomas and Olive dance the occasional fleet-footed gavotte. What’s not to like?

Students of history will learn precisely nothing from this production, but those who like to chortle, snigger and even let out the occasional hoot of hilarity will certainly enjoy their visit to the year 1599.

4 stars

Philip Caveney



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Home, Manchester

It’s not often that you sit down in the theatre with no real expectations and witness something so unique, so unexpected, that you leave with your mind well and truly blown; but that’s exactly how I felt after watching Golem by the experimental theatre company 1927. This eye popping amalgam of live action, music and (occasionally jaw dropping) animation is the most innovative and exciting spectacle I’ve seen in years.

The myth of the Golem, is of course, one of the oldest tales in existence. A creature created out of clay to do mankind’s bidding, its most famous manifestation was in Paul Wegener’s silent movie of 1915, the imagery of which is sometimes evoked here. In this version of the story, Robert (Shamira Turner) leads a life of unremitting tedium, enacting the same sequence of events every day, working in a ‘binary backup centre’ to earn his wages and too shy to approach new employee, Joy (Rose Robinson, brilliantly conveying the antithesis of what that name suggests). But when a friend, Phil Sylocate (Will Close) launches his new business, offering Golems that will carry out the owners every whim, Robert is an eager customer. At first all goes well, but as time passes, the Golem becomes ever more assertive, until inevitably the question arises; just who is in charge here? And what happens when the original Golem is updated to the new, faster, smarter Go 2?

If the story seems familiar, it should be borne in mind that the execution is key here – the perfect meld of acting, animation and music create a surreal, dreamlike world and one can only marvel at the degree of precision that must have been required to bring this extraordinary production together. Lest you be worried that it all sounds a bit dour, don’t be fooled – there’s plenty of comedy skilfully woven into writer/director Suzanne Andrade’s witty script. Ultimately, the word that best describes Golem is ‘magical’. Though on reflection, ‘unmissable’ will do just as well.

The production is at Home, Manchester until the 17th of October.

5 stars

Philip Caveney