Review: Kafka’s Ape, Alexander Bar until June 22, after that at National Arts Festival in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown

Adapted and directed by Phala O. Phala; original design by Liesel N. Retief
Performed by Tony Bonani Miyambo

If Tony Miyambo’s performance in Kafka’s Ape wasn’t so riveting the goings on on-stage would quickly have faded into a sideshow to the fireworks set off in my head.

I felt like I was transfixed, yet somehow I was also engaged in an intense Q and A with myself throughout. The show set off a quickfire interrogation of myself (“Did you really think that?”, “Oh no, don’t go there”, etc). Very confronting indeed.

Billed as “a performance about a primate’s struggle to overcome the confines of captivity”, this play is about the cruelty, beastliness even, of humans.

Miyambo’s extraordinary ape-like antics and sounds are both convincing and confusing. Through his eyes we get a disturbing look at that most primitive and barbaric of creatures, mankind. We can almost see the soul of the ape; man, on the other hand, is a drunkard and a fool.

Watching a black man discussing being captured and enslaved is so close to home and it’s downright confronting. Man versus beast is a proxy for that other great battle, man versus man, in this adaptation of Franz Kafka’s ‘A Report To An Academy’.

First my heart was cracked open, then my head. If Kafka’s Ape is hard to watch, performing it must require a pair that are made of steel.

I left wondering: Are we just the product of our lives, experiences and surroundings, or do we indeed have our own beautiful, independent souls?

Kafka’s Ape is on until June 22 at the Alexander Bar, which has a special place in the hearts of Capetonians with a love for independent theatre. Even on a blustery Tuesday night in winter Alex delivered with an interesting cast of theatregoers watching sensational independent theatre.

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