Jack Klaff
Bonne Idée Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre, London

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Jack Klaff Credit: Marilyn Kingwill
Jack Klaff Credit: Marilyn Kingwill
Jack Klaff Credit: Marilyn Kingwill

Jack Klaff’s knockabout eighty-minute rampage through the life and works of Franz Kafka includes him playing fifty characters from an ape to Albert Einstein and having a brief encounter with a front-row heckler who I think said the show was Kafkaresqe. That led to a vote on audience participation.

He also pauses during the show to thank the show's director, Colin Watkeys, for taking over the lighting from the person down to do the lighting (in my programme Colin Watkeys) and introduces himself as Jack Klaff.

At times, the show feels like a random collection of Wikipedia entries from an inexperienced stand-up comic desperate to find something funny to say to a trapped bunch of dinner guests.

Jack Klaff arrives on the stage arms gesturing, his body constantly moving, his rich, sonorous voice resembling one of the grand old masters as he abandons his impression of an ape.

The performance seems to have no structure or purpose beyond parading his version of the famous. Not that any of them say anything particularly significant.

I have no idea what the ape said, but Brecht calls Kafka bourgeois and Albert Camus reckons that the art of “Franz Kafka is you have to read him twice”. Jack repeats the Camus quote, chuckling to let us know he was being supposedly funny.

There are fleeting glimpses of his troubled relationship with his father, Hermann Kafka, who locked him out onto a balcony when he was a child. We hear about his sexual interests in “fleshy women” and men whose “legs cry out to be licked”.

Brief visits to his stories are not exactly exciting. Jack points out that Gregor Samsa turns into an unidentified creature rather than a specific insect in The Metamorphosis.

There is no issue or character to care about or engage with. The play lacks any dramatic tension. We are simply carried along by the fast-tumbling anecdotes of a light-hearted Jack Klaff, a usually fine actor who seems to have fallen into a rather unfunny stream-of-consciousness tub of Monty Python comedy.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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