Good theatre is designed to stimulate the senses and Ross Dinwiddy’s production based on Kafka’s grim short story ‘In the Penal Colony’ certainly achieves that. Dinwiddy has not for a moment diluted the peculiarity associated with Kafka; in fact he has turned it up a notch and at the same time making the dialogue modern and conversational between the characters. This is an enthralling, shocking piece of theatre that mixes in equal measure black comedy and high drama. As writer and director he has gone for the jugular and via the staging created a passionate, graphic and very powerful look at the human psyche.
Special mention has to be made of Emily Carding as the Officer whose chilling, compulsive portrayal of the sadistic, tyrannical, powered-crazed torturer is a masterclass in character immersion. Luis Amalia as the condemned man, Maximus Polling as the soldier and lastly Matt Hastings as the traveller complete this quartet of superb actors. The body language between the four of them is simple stunning. Integral to the play is the idea that when society fails and people are left with nothing – not even hope – the punishers become the punished. Compelling stuff made even more effective by the intimacy of the venue.