(Description disponible en anglais seulement)
Based on Franz Kafka's short story, A Report to an Academy
Adapted from the original German by Guy Sprung
Directed by Guy Sprung
"I deliberately don't use the word 'freedom'. 'Freedom' is a powerfully seductive word which your so-called civilized world uses
very cleverly, very effectively, to entrap and occupy whole continents." - Redpeter
Montreal, January 2013- Infinithéâtre presents the 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 Jan. 28-Feb.17 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 Québec work, part of Infinithéâtre's mandate is to tackle and adapt classic plays when the themes and characters are relevant. It's time - the last one the company produced was a bilingual version of Beckett's End Game/Fin de partie in 2001."
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 - one of the biggest growth industries of the 21st Century. 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. The millions of humans plunged into the serious business of killing each other were proving Homo sapiens to be vastly superior to chimpanzees when it came to mass murder and genocide. Writer/director Guy Sprung has taken Kafka's story, originally a tale of the captured simian turned into a celebrated variety show act, and adapted it to have Redpeter end up as a distinguished member of the 'private security industry', a euphemism that white-washes his reality as a mercenary soldier. Sprung hopes Kafka will not object to this contemporizing of his work, "Here, Redpeter has been assimilated into one of the most heinous occupations that Homo sapiens have embraced on their evolutionary journey- the privatization of the killing and subjugating of other human beings for profit. 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 become the ideal prototype for a successful corporate military citizen." 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, "The 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. Sprung, whose father was in the military, 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) be instead 'a keynote address to an annual general meeting' (of shareholders, board members and members of the executive council) of the fictitious company, Graywater. Ironically the largest of the 'private military corporations' doing business with the American government today is called Academi, formerly known as Blackwater.* The 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?" asks director Sprung.
Kafka's themes of alienation resonate for Rosenstein, an actor who has chosen to retain his Jewish name, "I often have to endure people making fun of it even after working with them for over twenty-five years. 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 thrilled to be part of another production with Infinithéâtre, "Working with Guy on a gutsy project like this always yields revelations worth seeing."
Theatrically, audiences will be fascinated being part of the 'meta' experience of watching an actor play an ape playing a human. Both Rosenstein and Alexandra Montagnese, who plays Mrs. Redpeter, worked on transforming into an ape, then transforming through that ape into varying degrees of being human. Movement coaches Anana Rydvald and Zach Fraser helped the actors find the 'ape' in themselves. Rydvald explains, "I worked with them studying the movements and vocalization of the chimpanzees and then worked on perfecting that in ourselves-- going on all fours at first, finding the way they hold their shoulders, arms, back, etc., how they place weight and inhabit rhythm; what their faces do, how they look, eat, drink, threaten, cuddle, play, etc." Fraser then continued the work, taking the actors up on their feet and fine-tuning the movements. He adds, "Howard is a great fit for the role. His challenge is to bring together human and ape, sophistication and elegance, with raw animal force. Sometimes it is the ape that is more graceful and sometimes the human more brutish. There are many layers of nuanced movement to be incorporated while maintaining the flow of storytelling through the text. It is beautiful to see the moments when it all clicks- all of a sudden we have an ape speaking to us!"
The action of the play takes place in the ball room of the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. The ace crackerjack team supporting the actors' and the Bain St. Michel's transformation is set and costume designer, Ariane Genet de Miomandre; make-up designer, Vladimir Alexandru Cara; lighting designer, Eric Mongerson; spine-tingling video, sound designer and composer, Nikita U; movement coaches Zach Fraser and Anana Rydvald; and stage manager, Michael Panich.