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Branley, D. Coleman, L. (2016). The Trial, by Franz Kafka, adapted by Nick Gill, directed by Richard Jones, Young Vic, London, 19 July-22 August, 2015. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 6(1):122-125.

(2016). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 6(1):122-125

The Trial, by Franz Kafka, adapted by Nick Gill, directed by Richard Jones, Young Vic, London, 19 July-22 August, 2015

Review by:
Duncan Branley, M.A., MSc, FHEA

Lin Coleman

“sure no guilt if no one hurt?”

(Kafka, ad. Gill, 2015, p. 61)

“Kafkaesque” is a common expression of baffled exasperation and powerlessness when caught up in incomprehensible bureaucratic systems. Franz Kafka's The Trial, written in 1914, but not published until 1925, has exercised critics from the world of politics, philosophy, literature, and psychoanalysis. It has been seen as a comment on the challenges of living under an all-encompassing, incomprehensible, judicial system. Most of Kafka's work describes a world where something strange and extraordinary suddenly irrupts into ordinary life, and The Trial exemplifies this with horrible power. The protagonist, Josef K, wakes one morning to find himself arrested, though not detained, for an unarticulated crime, and becomes engaged in an increasingly nightmarish struggle to prove himself not guilty. The potential for psychoanalytic examination and interpretation is clear.

But can an intrapsychic nightmare be successfully portrayed in the theatre? Is it possible to show the tortured workings of a young man's inner world effectively on the stage for over an hour and a half? The novel was never finalised by Kafka and was assembled and published posthumously by Kafka's friend, Max Brod. Since there is no “definitive” author-sanctioned version, there is more leeway for creative interpretation and there have been several adaptations for stage and film. Nick Gill's adaptation and Richard Jones' direction for The Young Vic continued this tradition.

We (this review's authors) found ourselves attending the same performance. Discussing it later we wondered whether we were intrigued by the interpersonal, sexual aspects of the play precisely because we are therapists.

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