KAFKA'S APE to Return to Infinitheatre at Bain St. Michel, Nov 7-24
Infinitheatre presents the remount of its hugely successful world premiere of Kafka's Ape, Guy Sprung's adaptation of Franz Kafka's A Report to an Academy, from the original German. Kafka's Ape runs from Nov. 7-24 at Bain St. Michel. This disturbing satire is a theatrical tour-de-force starring company favourite Howard Rosenstein as keynote speaker, the primate Mr. Redpeter. Born in 1883, Kafka is one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Sprung is pleased to add this show to the theatre's history, "In addition to new Quebec work, part of Infinithe?a?tre's mandate is to tackle and adapt classic plays when the themes and characters are relevant. The last classic the company produced was a bilingual version of Beckett's End Game/Fin de partie in 2001."
Sprung is thrilled with the response the play garnered during its original run, "During the last week of the February performances we were turning audiences away. We are bringing the show back to be able to offer it to schools, particularly CEGEPs and universities, as well as Montreal audiences who missed the opportunity to catch one of the most exciting productions of the city's past theatre season." Sprung is looking forward to revisiting the production, "Last season was the premiere of a first draft of the play and an initial exploration of the central character. This new rehearsal period will allow the company to polish the script, deepen the tragic ape to human internal journey and have the time to expand and define the onstage relationship between Redpeter and Mrs. Redpeter."
Captured on the Gold Coast and imprisoned in a cage, Redpeter's only escape route is to become a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking member of the Peace Industry, the entrepreneurial world of mercenary soldiers. In detailing the journey of his enforced evolution from Apehood to Humanhood, Mr. Redpeter is a living embodiment of the irony that perhaps now he is more animal than he ever was as an ape. Witness a human become an ape become a human before your very eyes...
When Kafka's piece, Ein Bericht an eine Academie (Report to an Academy) was first published in 1917, the Great War was still raging. Millions of human beings were coerced into an orgy of killing each other and proving Homo sapiens to be vastly superior to gorillas and chimpanzees when it came to mass murder and genocide. Writer/director Guy Sprung has adapted Kafka's story, originally a tale of the captured simian turned into a celebrated variety show act, and has Redpeter end up as a distinguished member of the 'private security industry', a euphemism that white-washes his reality as a mercenary soldier. Sprung is certain Kafka will not object to this contemporizing of his work, "Just as Redpeter, in the original, had to distort his animal nature to be accepted into humanhood, so in our version he has to distort his nature even more to be assimilated into one of the most heinous occupations that Homo sapiens has embraced on its evolutionary journey- the privatization of the killing and the subjugating of other human beings for profit." Kafka's central thesis, that other animals have a dignity and a respect for Mother Nature and their own species which Homo sapiens have lost, has been nudged into the 21st century. Sprung adds, "My father's generation of Canadians who volunteered to fight in the Second World War must be rolling in their graves to see the military turned into a for-profit enterprise."
Kafka's works are filled with themes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality and mystical transformations. Infinithe?a?tre's version has brought into the context of Kafka's tale a more immediate access by having 'a report to an academy' (of nineteenth/early twentieth century scientists) become instead 'a keynote address to the annual general meeting' of the fictitious company, Graywater. Ironically one of the largest of the 'Private Military Corporations' doing business with the American government today is called Academi, formerly known as Blackwater*. Mercenaries are hired by the PMC industry from various international elite military units, including former Navy Seals, British SAS, Contras and Chilean Commandos. "Was Kafka able to see into the future?" queries director Sprung.
Kafka's theme of alienation resonates for Rosenstein, an actor who has chosen to retain his Austro-Hungarian Empire 'Jewish' name, "I often endure people making fun of it even after working with them for decades. It is fascinating and sometimes exhausting to wonder what goes on in the minds of others about me, simply because of my name." Kafka was a secular Jew; assimilated into Prague society, yet still an outsider. Rosenstein is pleased to revive his actor's journey into 'apedom', "My passion is to find a way in to a character and 'disappear' within it. That is how I find the mystery in performance, as a conduit for the universal subconscious. Redpeter is an extremely rich find for just such an attempt. Kafka is a genius for getting at the heart of the human experience." Sprung is impressed with the way Rosenstein had the guts to dive in to the character all the way; to dig down deep into millions of years of shared evolution and portray an ape-human with a tragic dignity. He notes, "We watch him as Redpeter and we can laugh, we can be moved, but we cannot escape the horrific, wrenching realization that the evolutionary law of survival of the fittest has set our species, Homo sapiens, firmly on the path of self-eradication."