Some theatre is like marmite, a taste that divides people strongly. There's nothing about Richard Jones's production of Kafka's The Trial to be indifferent over; my critical colleagues have already nailed their colours to the theatrical mast with reviews ranging from one star (The Times) to five (Whatsonstage).
I can understand where the naysayers come from, but I was knocked out by the utter theatrical bravura and disorientating daring of this show.
It's a show that pulls you right into the nightmare that Josef K finds himself in as he is suddenly arrested on unnamed charges, and has to defend himself against them without knowing what he is accused of.
With the West End currently offering a revival of 1984, adapted from George Orwell's book about a journey into hell thanks to the tyranny of 'thought-crimes' in a dystopian future, The Trial puts another man on trial in similarly disturbing, murky circumstances.
It's given strange yet thrilling, frequently chilling, theatrical life here, thanks partly to an unrecognisably reconfigured Young Vic Theatre, turned into a Coliseum-like amphitheatre constructed out of plywood, in which the audience are arranged - as if simultaneously spectators and jurors - in pew-like rows, facing a narrow stage cut down the middle of it. The stage is actually a giant travelator, on which a series of locations are trucked in and out. Designed by Miriam Buether, it gives the show a churning dynamic flow.
Here, we watch spellbound as Rory Kinnear faces the ultimate bureaucratic nightmare of finding his life going into freefall. Kinnear, one of our most compelling stage actors, lends him a sweaty terror, and is surrounded by a sterling supporting cast of versatile actors, including Kate O'Flynn, Sian Thomas and Hugh Skinner in a variety of roles.
"Kinnear was never off stage and mesmerisingly showed a man reduced to desperation as he tried to find out why he had been arrested and with what crime he was charged."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"Every part of Kinnear’s body remains steadfastly committed from his buckled eyebrows to his twitching toes that dance an anxious jig as he is rolled out to his doom. The result is an aptly and brilliantly febrile vision of a man who is haunted by his own being: restless and tense with fleeting moments of rueful comic relief."
Patrick Marmion for The Daily Mail
"Kinnear is always onstage and he’s immense, convincingly navigating his character’s turbulent stream of consciousness. But the emphasis on sickly surrealism means the action (two hours without interval) rarely feels sufficiently sinister, and the stronger performances don’t fully compensate for the production’s unengaging style."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard
External links to full reviews from popular press