The reality of the absurd: The Podol Theater staged “The Trial” by Kafka. Why it should be watched

The reality of the absurd: The Podol Theater staged “The Trial” by Kafka.  Why it should be watched


On January 12-14, the capital’s Podil Theater played its first premiere shows “Process” based on the philosophical novel Franz Kafka.

How did the director see this difficult masterpiece of world literature Davyd Petrosyan? How will the Kafkaesque absurdist bureaucracy, the impersonal, self-reproducing power, resonate in the Ukrainian present? In which, by the way, processes take place on those who investigateand not by those who transgress…

Theater reviewer Maryana Semenyshyn has already watched the play and tells why it should not be missed.

For this production at the Podol Theater, the now “Lviv” director Davyd Petrosyan assembled a team not only of local actors. Among the “partners”, he added, in particular, Olga Goldys. Who became the main character of “Process”, playing the same Joseph K.

She created the scenography of the play Anna Shkrogal, known for her work on the costumes of the best-selling musical “Tygrolovi” in the capital’s Operetta Theater.

I understand that not everyone keeps a volume of “The Process” on the bedside table. I myself re-read it just for the sake of this premiere. So I will briefly recall the plot. Josef K. is a middle-ranking bank official who was informed on his thirtieth birthday that a trial had begun against him.

Servants (or servants?) of justice appear to be ill-informed businessmen who love to create mystery and sow confusion. Josef K., at first desperately trying to understand the game into which he seems to have been so senselessly drawn. However, in the end, he realizes the futility of all attempts: he is part of a large mechanism for which his own process is only one of many cogs that set the whole machine in motion.

The “Process” was published after the death of the author and gained the greatest popularity after the Second World War – in the period of global fatigue, confusion, social alienation and existential anxiety. Because it was written about this.

The plots of the doctor of law Franz Kafka are eclectic, multi-layered, absurd, similar to the labyrinths of dreams through which the reader has to make his way. Provocative by their absurdity, they lend themselves better to interpretation than to explanation.

A scene from the play “Process” at the Podol Theater. Photo by Ira Marconi

Probably, this is how “Process” should be perceived in David Petrosyan’s vision – an interpretation of the absurdity in which Josef K. is immersed and to which the director invites the audience.

In the performance, the majesty of the mechanism of justice is reduced to the dimensions of Josef K. Outside the four walls are sealed furniture that once belonged to someone, but has long been the property of the justice system.

If in Kafka the city suddenly narrows to places for courts, David Petrosyan visualizes the limitation of a person’s personal space – due to the penetration of “justice” into the most private sphere.

Breaking into Joseph K.’s room in the morning, the guards-clerks describe all the property of a man who has not even been sentenced yet. The accused, although under arrest, can go to work, returning to a room in which he no longer owns much: as a reminder of the inevitability of a guilty verdict.

A scene from the play “Process” at the Podol Theater. Photo by Ira Marconi

Privacy is violated everywhere – even casual acquaintances of Josef K. seem well-informed about the progress of the process and offer advice. In the most intimate moments, the hero realizes that he is losing even his own body, which no longer belongs to him.

Driven into a corner, Josef K. is likened to an insect (another Kafka plot), which is examined under a microscope, but not to investigate (because the result is known in advance), but to have fun. The lamp of the inspector’s desk merges with the light of the soffits – the subject turns into the hero of the drama.

And the truth is, what is a better name for a courtroom with a predictable ending, where investigators, guards, a judge or a lawyer do not know and will not say more than what is prescribed by the text? They play the roles assigned to them by justice, and nothing more.

Now Josef K. has finally understood the rules and is desperately trying to squeeze into the circle of light on the proscenium – can he manage to explain everything this way, reach not only the minds, but also the hearts of those who decide his fate? Unconsciously, he begins to play the role assigned to him, he is in the game.

A scene from the play “Process” at the Podol Theater. Photo by Ira Marconi

Read also: Does fairy-tale oblivion save from hellish reality? Notes from “The Witch of Konotop” at the Franko Theater in Kyiv

Shakespeareanly, in the play, not only the trial of Joseph K., but life itself is absolutized in the theater. What appeared to be a fragmentary, incomprehensible delusion of one person, terrifyingly easily finds an echo in the present. Violent interference in personal life and gradual annexation is of its own. A depressing awareness of one’s own limitations and helplessness, in the end, accepting the limitations, but not admitting guilt and trying to live “as before”, knowing that the process continues.

The abstract plot becomes close to the audience, including thanks to the penetrating performance of the actors. Olga Goldys combines incredible plasticity with an almost subconscious feeling of her character. Barely touching the stage, her Josef K. seems to be trying to distance himself from the process, but at the same time he feels all the temporality of his stay in it.

The actress impresses with her inhabiting a role in which almost everyone in the hall sees themselves: confused by external circumstances, oppressed by the unknown, with enough experience to understand that the process has only just begun.

In contrast to the crucified feelings of Josef K., the priest-inspector, brilliantly embodied Artem Atamanyuk, demonstrates all the indifference and cynicism of the system. Atamanyuk’s characters seem to “frame” the experiences of Josef K.: the inspector announces that the process has begun, and the priest summarizes it, listening to Josef’s despair, but not forgiving sins: this is the prerogative of justice.

Oleg Stefan in the role of a businessman, Blok reveals to Josef K. the future of the accused: the endless uncertainty of his position, contempt in the eyes of others, loss of his own dignity. The system works to devalue the individual, to create a hierarchy of the accused, and not a society of equal people.

The creators of the play “The Process” not only gave us an opportunity to look at our experiences through the prism of European classics. Living the process together with Josef K., we contemplate our own experiences, learn a little more about them and about ourselves.

Photo on the cover: Olga Goldys in the role of Josef K. in the play “Process” at the Podol Theater. Photo author: Ira Marconi

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