In celebration of the alternative theatre company’s 25th anniversary, Theatre Inconnu is bringing the surreal to the stage with the world premiere of Kafka the Musical.
Written as a radio play by award-winning playwright Murray Gold (who is also musical director for the BBC’s Doctor Who), Kafka the Musical tells the story of a struggling Franz Kafka, who has been approached by a famous producer to star in a musical based on his own life. Kafka has to decide if this will be the event to turn his life around, or if the offer is even real.
“It’s an interesting combination of humour and a touching love story, and it’s also slightly on the absurd side, because it takes place through his deliriums as he approaches his death,” says artistic director Clayton Jevne.
Jevne was introduced to the radio play by a patron. “I listened to it over two jogging sessions, and found myself laughing as I was jogging. It was pretty moving, too — bringing tears to my eyes,” he says.
Jevne then tried to contact Gold to ask if he’d be interested in adapting the play for the stage.
“He just wrote back and said, ‘I don’t see why not’,” says Jevne, who hadn’t realized at the time that Gold had recently relocated from London to New York, where he would soon be visiting to perform his hit show Moscow Stations.
Jevne offered Gold a comp ticket and afterwards the two went for a few pints “at a divey pub” and spent a couple of hours chatting about the project.
Since that meeting, Jevne and Gold have been corresponding by email, with Gold sending new drafts of the script and even new musical compositions. The final draft was finished in July.
Jevne then recruited Premtim Plakoli to play the role of Franz Kafka.
“He’s highly intelligent,” says Jevne. “He has a real passion about him. He has a real enthusiasm for the theatre and for acting and doesn’t hold back … and with a little imagination he actually looks like Kafka — he has the same physique, and similar features.”
The cast also features Jess Shead (who recently starred in Blackbird), and other Theatre Inconnu regulars Naomi Simpson and Melissa Blank in the nine-person ensemble.
Music director Donna Williams, who will be playing violin on stage, will be accompanied by Gold on keyboards, but only virtually.
“He won’t be playing live,” says Jevne. “He recorded the tracks and sent them to us.”
Gold, however, will be in the house for opening night.
“It’s kind of fun to be a little theatre company and every once and a while get these tie-ins with big names,” says Jevne. “It’s been such a pleasurable experience … we want to finish our 25th year with a bang.”
Gold will also be making a public appearance, Sun., Dec. 2 at Little Fernwood Hall (1923 Fernwood) at 7pm. Enjoy an informal evening of entertaining banter as Gold answers questions and shares insights of his eclectic international career as a playwright and composer. M