Franz Kafka is a constant inspiration for writers, artists and performers. There are countless stage adaptations of his work and a wide variety of books and articles that look to get under the skin of the mysterious and intriguing writer. Kafka and Son is a one man performance from Alon Nashman. He created the story with director Mark Cassidy and the relationship between Kafka and his father is the focal point of the production.
When Kafka was 36 years old he was still living with his overbearing Father. Kafka was struggling with his writing and struggling to find a life partner so he could settle down. Throughout the performance Nashman plays the role of Kafka and also his father. The performer jumps between the two with verve and menace and we see Kafka in an almost constant state of anxiety. He is nervous and fragile and wearily looks around the room while delivering his tense monologues. His father however is stern, upright and assertive. The two are polar opposites and this discord highlights Kafka’s inadequacies and his father’s arrogance.
During the performance Nashman sits next to a thin metallic cage. The top of this cage is covered in a veil of jet black feathers. This set up is employed to illustrate Kafka’s writing desk and the performer picks up a quill and begins to write. As he does so feathers fall into the cage below and the shadows of these falling feathers is projected to the back of the stage. The effect is startling. The feathers appear gigantic as they glide down with loose abandon, mirroring Kafka’s frustration that his words are begin ignored and fall into the background with no one noticing. Here the evocative set design from Camelllia Koo and Marysia Bucolc combines perfectly with the lighting design of Andrea Lundy and the anxiety that Kafka expresses is heightened to a new level. During Kafka and Son we see the inspiration behind some of Kafka’s novels. The relationship he had with his father shaped his work and Alon Nashman has presented this complex relationship with style and menace.