While a sad looking chimpanzee on the screen engages audiences and makes them question their own evolutions one more time, Kathryn Hunter brings a sudden silence to the room when she appears on the corner of the Young Vic‘s stage with a brown leather briefcase in one hand and a black stick in the other, dressed up like a man but still in an apish manner.From that point on, she is the man, she is the monkey but certainly she is the ruler of the stage, her artistic passion oozes and drips everywhere she moves.

Kathryn Hunter in *Kafka's Monkey" at Youn Vic.

His name is Red Peter, which was given him after having being scarred in his face by an hunting expedition’s  shot in the jungle of West Africa, he is there to tell us his story before a scientific conference starts. He tells us how he was shot, captured in his land and caged in the steamship to Europe. That is when his five years battle starts to find the way out to be able move as he wishes again. He observes crews and imitates them not to be a human but to find the way out.

When he arrives in Europe, he is given two choices: Zoological Garden or Music Hall. He chooses Music Hall and gets trained by many teachers to become a performer. He learns handshaking, walking, talking, not only drinking but hard drinking, spitting to become a man. But how can he be happy while fighting against his nature?

Constant anguish and incomplete smile on her face Olivier Award winner Hunter transfers the pain of Red Peter’s inner conflict to the audiences extraordinarily well. While she jumps, climbs and bends backward with the flexibility of a  monkey, she doesn’t forget to ask us what the humanity is. Is it really humanity that allows people to assimilate the ones who are different? However it can be hard not to let her performance overshadow the story, it is because she is Kathryn Hunter. She is not just an actress, she is the master of her talent.

Maybe  Franz Kafka tries to show us assimilation of Jews in the Western world by the story of an ape ,who was forced to become a human, but he definitely bleeds the audiences in their hearts by showing how ruthless they  can be to the  different ones in the name of humanity. However he doesn’t forget to show how one can fight even against his nature until he gets  the freedom he deserves. While Kafka reminds us our origins in the story he also warns us not to overestimate ourselves as human beings by showing the achievement of an ape that gets his way through the bushes as sneaky and smart as us.

“Kafka’s Monkey”, originally “A Report to an Academy” was written and published in 1917 by Martin Buber in German Monthly along with is other stories like “Jackals and Arabs.The monologist and writer Andrew Tansey adapted play as “The Greatest Ape” for the first time and premiered it at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1989.

The story’s was adapted to the stage by Colin Teevan second time, directed by Walter Meierjohann and remarkably performed by Kathryn Hunter at Young Vic in 2009.

An hour long play revived by the same team and will be on at Young Vic until 11 June.

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Comments
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