This take on Kafka’s The Trial leaves Toronto audiences perplexed at the Theatre Passe Muraille
The Trial of Judith K, presented by Thought for Food Productions at the Theatre Passe Muraille Back Space, is based loosely on Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Trial. Unfortunately, The Trial of Judith K feels uncompleted in many ways as well, making it hard to follow or get invested in, even though it is a thematically interesting show.
The Trial of Judith K centers on Judith, played by Stephanie Belding, who wakes up to find she is accused of an unnamed crime. She proceeds to investigate further into her situation, while discovering that everyone seems to know the rules of the justice system except her. In a world where orders are followed without reason, we witness her increasingly all-consuming paranoia and futile search for what seems to be an unattainable truth.
The themes the show is evidently trying to take on are definitely intriguing. A warped justice system, panic that devours, and the effects of unconfirmed rumor all have a lot of potential. The problem was that the script had no clear through line, which left the audience confused and desperately trying to scrape together any sense.
Along with the jumbled, seeming unrelated scenes were a collage of unexplained characters. New characters were constantly being thrown in, and often their caricature-like antics added little more to the plot except more confusion. A particularly abrasive example was when two of the male cast members played a young boy and girl, whose volume and pitch served exclusively as a distraction from the main action.
I must clarify though that there were times where the actors found moments that rang true in a script that lived mostly in the ridiculous. Belding, for example, shone in her asides to the audience. In her struggle to repress her panic by rationalizing the irrational, the audience got to see her inner struggle clearly and it was extremely compelling.
Design wise, the set consisted of several large, movable pieces that were designed to be moved around by the actors. These movements were cleverly combined with lighting changes to create different settings. Some scenes were performed on the side balcony, which was an interesting change of pace, but very difficult to see from some of the seats in the theatre.
The sound design had no discernible relevance or connection to the plot or themes and while I love “Putting on the Ritz”, I didn’t understand why it and a few others were used so frequently. The use of white noise that cut in and out while scenes were happening also felt unnecessary.
Overall, I wish the content had been more clear and well laid out, because I think underneath the extraneous elements, The Trial of Judith K had something interesting to say. I just wish I had found out exactly what it was while watching the show.
- The Trial of Judith K plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) until February 14, 2016.
- Performances take place at 7:30 pm, with Sunday matinees at 2 pm.
- Tickets range from $20 to $30
- Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone(416 504 7529) or at the box Office (16 Ryerson Avenue)
Photo provided by the company