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BWW catches up with Tim Norton, writer, director and Founder of Young Pleasance to chat about bringing The Trial to the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Tell us a bit about The Trial.

Kafka's early 20th century novel has themes, characters and a narrative that are very contemporary for a modern audience and are easily recognised: a sense of guilt although one cannot quite understand why those feelings exist; an awareness of complete injustice and of seeking identity and belonging while under constant scrutiny. The latter seems very prescient in a world now dominated by social media and a lack of true privacy and where we live in a society where individuals suffer injustice on a daily basis. Kafka's novel may be dark at times but it is also very funny.

This thrilling new stage adaptation stays true to Kafka's vision and his comedy but the plot is set within a highly contemporary world: Joseph K is a 21 year old Art History student who has come from Eastern Europe to study in London in 2020. At the start of the play we learn it is his 21st Birthday and a surprise party for him has gone disastrously wrong. Joseph has 'arrested' and is in a coma in a teaching hospital; there we discover that he is the sole patient on a secret government medical trial and we follow his unconscious mind through a labyrinth of dead ends, misunderstandings and bizarre dream-like situations. Guilt surrounds both him and all who surround him but the truth eventually unfolds as Joseph begins to come to terms with who he is as reality and fantasy collide.

What makes the storytelling unique?

A thirty-strong, young cast play over 60 roles in this fast-paced, visually stunning production. The script takes a cinematic approach to skip magically between the modern world, the past, present and Kafka's own story. The expressionist production wraps around naturalistic performances to allow the audience to follow several strands of the story at once. We hope this will result in a uniquely funny, sometimes absurd and ultimately moving story of self-discovery and growing up, that perhaps reaches a more satisfying conclusion than Kafka himself offers.

How important has the support of Young Pleasance been?

It is impossible to stress the huge impact the support of the Young Pleasance has been on many hundreds of young performers, technicians, writers and directors over the past 27 years. It is no secret that it has a hugely impressively alumni of actors now working in theatre, film and television across both sides of the Atlantic and we have young, and not so young practitioners who are directing, writing and creating theatre of the highest calibre who were introduced to a highly demanding, disciplined and very professional approach to making theatre through YP. This year we have an outstanding group of young people who will come together in Edinburgh and, as a company, the Young Pleasance is hugely excited to be returning after the two year absence Covid has enforced.

Who do you hope comes to see The Trial?

In previous years we have numbered nine year-olds and ninety year olds among our those watching and we always aim to appeal to a very wide audience. It is a conscious decision to present new work every year, sometimes challenging, sometimes hilarious but never to present plays with gratuitously offensive images or language. Young Pleasance have built up a level of trust with our audiences over a long period and they know they will always be entertained with a combination of the dramatic, thought-provoking and the comic offering some of the highest production values on the fringe. There is no doubt that the 17-21 year old cast and the setting of this year's play will be very relevant to older teenagers but there really is much to appeal to all ages and backgrounds.

What would you like audiences to take away from it?

We truly aim to keep our audience gripped from the opening moments to the last tender awakening at the conclusion of the piece this year. We hope that there will be much to keep audiences guessing and to question as the performance unfolds, but that the struggles of our protagonist and the resolutions we propose in the play - not to mention some of the strong visual images within the piece will resonate long after someone has left the theatre. We are quite excited about our quarter-century show, if that wasn't obvious!

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