Blog Review: Kafka The Musical

Kafka The Musical reviewed for by Jude Burke

It’s fair to say that, if I were hunting around for a subject for a musical, the life of Czech writer Franz Kafka, author of the disturbing ‘Metamorphosis’, probably wouldn’t be at the top of my list. Hopelessness, alienation and death at the age of 40 from TB don’t exactly fit with the glitz and glamourof musicals, after all. But that didn’t put off writer (and Dr Who composer) Murray Gold, who hassucceeded in creating an entertaining and touching – if somewhat confusing – drama from this most unlikelysubject matter.

‘Kafka: The Musical’ begins with Kafka (played by DT) waking up from uneasy dreams one morning to find, not that he has been transformed into a gigantic insect, but that his life has been turned into a musical.His father, keen to see Kafka do some real work andfinally earn a living, has convinced local showbiz producer Herr Grossman to work with Kafka on a new show.

But when he goes to Grossman’s offices, the mysterious producer isn’t there – in fact, Kafka never meets him. Nonetheless, the writer finds himself plunged into a world beyond his control, where he is to be the star of a show he has neither agreed to, nor seen the script for – a show about his own life. Complete with song and dance.

Confused? So was Kafka - so was I, in fact. And things got even more baffling. As rehearsals for the ‘show’ progress, the lines between art and life – or at least play and musical – become blurred. Scenes that appear to be part of Kafka’s life turn out to be in the musical. Characters from Kafka’s life crop up, but not necessarily in the role they originally played (FeliceBauer, the woman Kafka almost married, is the assistant stage manager, for example). Strange men turn up in Kafka’s dreams asking questions about Grossman – but are they really his dreams? And who is this Grossman? Why does Kafka never meet him? What does it all mean?

After about an hour or so of feeling thoroughlyperplexed, along comes a comma (you’ll have to listen to the play if you don’t know what I mean) and everything changes. Out of all this confusion comes a touching story of a man who, having lived in fear and self-doubt all his life, finally embraces love and life just as it nears its end. The question of where the musical ends and life begins no longer matters – it’s all life, Kafka’s life, with its inevitable sad conclusion.

It goes without saying that DT is excellent as Kafka, brilliantly conveying his changing emotions – from nervous and bewildered in the beginning, to his growing confidence and love towards the end. The final scenes with Dora, his true love, are particularlypoignant, as Kafka clings on to a life he has only recently come to love.

(And of course, this being a musical, DT also gets to sing a song or two. But don’t get too excited - w
hile they were perfectly passable, I don’t think he should give up the day job just yet.)

While ‘Kafka: The Musical’ left me feeling a little too baffled to be able to say that I thought it was brilliant, it was definitely engaging – even moving, in places.There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half than listening to it. And I would dearly love to know what was going through Murray Gold’s mind when he came up with the idea.

You can read Jude's review of United on her blog here.