How was Josephine K and the Algorithms?
What was it about?
It was a revamp of Franz Kafka's The Trial. In a way the play was a bit protected by the fact that it was a retelling of a Kafka piece. Sometimes these plays that talk about the perils of the Internet can feel a bit thick, like someone saying "I don't know what Snapchat is but selfies are a sign of narcissism". Kafka gets to be Kafkaesque, so bringing the Internet into The Trial does let us have a think about how paralysing and paranoia-inducing it can all be. Like The Trial, this play follows its main character, Josephine K, as she tries to navigate an upcoming trial by an unknown authority that has reached into her personal and private life. We see Josephine K's paranoia become more prominent and more justified as her social media and online life become influenced by forces outside of her control. Some themes in this play are explored well, particularly those relating to Josephine's feelings of powerlessness and paranoia, whereas others aren't explored at all but just mentioned. Josephine's trial is live-streamed and commented-on by the Internet mobs, but the meaning behind the portrayal of this sort of Internet theatre is never really explained. Someone once said about Kafka that the only people who could properly understand Kafka were those born between the years 1890 and 1910 in Austria. Similar things might be said of our generation too? Maybe in forty years time we'll have a thorough grasp of communication technology and have it comfortably ingrained into our lives, as opposed to having it cause mass anxiety and discomfort as it does now.
The Set Design
The set design (by Kate Moylan, and light design by John Crudden) was the best thing about this play. You know, you might think I'm being rude when I say this. I think if someone said this to me I'd assume that the play was bad, but really I just mean that the set design was very good. Sometimes set designs are just supposed to make the world a bit more real, whereas for this play the set really encapsulated what the whole play was about. So you come in off the street, in off Abbey Street, and you're brought down into this Q-Zar cum Madison Square Gardens style theatre space. The space is filled with barriers, both real and illusory. There are lasers shooting everywhere, of green and red, and I definitely saw some people try not to bang into these lines of light, walking gingerly around them. To one end of the room there is some giant scaffolding, and there are loads of emoji balloons tethered to it. I love emojis, they say so much but their meanings are also so vague and shifting, especially due to cross platform design differences. Finally, you get to the stage which is the most horrifying of all. You're stuck right up against it, every row is a front row. You're craning your neck up at this set of a room, and it's chillingly unclear as to whether it's a sitting room or an office space. How gross is that? The stage is divided by a big sheet of perspex so the only way to get across fully is to crawl underneath a desk/table in the centre. I think if you brought me into this room and said "This is called Josephine K and the Algorithms, it's a retellings of Kafka's The Trial", I'd be like "Yes, okay." I'd get it. Not to sound ridiculous, but I feel like this show was almost a sculptural piece. It's like someone built the set and the story told within is just a way of activating it. Josephine K and the Algorithms and the Importance of Great Set Design.
James for DRAFF
Josephine K and the Algorithms by Stacey Gregg runs at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin until October 21st.
Posted: 16 October 2017