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Appendages and biographies: The story of Kafka’s Dick

Appendages and biographies: The story of Kafka’s Dick

Stagecraft Theatre is flirting with comedy this March and staging Kafka’s Dick, a play by the master of black comedy, Alan Bennett.

Six actors will whip out their comedic skills at the Gryphon Theatre and bring to life Bennett’s humourous exploration of fame, daddy issues and legacy.

The play is about writer Franz Kafka, a real-life figure of the early 20th century. When Kafka died in 1924, he was still relatively unknown as a writer and worked as an insurance assessor to make ends meet.

In the play, Kafka’s self-doubt leads him to persuade his friend Max Brod to burn all of his work after his death. Brod decides not to make good on this promise and publishes everything. Kafka comes back to life to reassume ownership of his legacy and quash the rumour that his father is peddling about the underwhelming size of his … endowment.

Bennett’s play is a rollicking black comedy which explores celebrity and fiddles with the age old question: does size matter?

Director Tim Papps says it was the play’s surrealism and wordplay which attracted him.

“Initially I heard it as a BBC radio play and immediately I was hooked,” he says. “There are some incredibly funny lines. Bennett is a lover of language, and that’s as apparent in his comedy as it is in the play’s darker moments.”

He is quick to agree that the play is a thinking person’s black comedy.

“It’s not quite gallows humour, but there is definitely a dark edge, which is very cleverly portrayed through some biting dialogue and clever innuendo.”

Actor Allan Burne plays Kafka’s father, an abusive man who cannot come to terms with his son’s talents and fame.

Burne says, “He’s a belt and braces self-made man who can’t understand his son’s fame or success. [The play]’s humour will appeal to all kinds of audiences, but underneath there’s a very poignant commentary on celebrity.”

In the age of selfies, live-tweeting and paparazzi stalking celeb-children, you have to wonder if Bennett foresaw this escalation of our obsession with celebrity when he wrote the play in 1986.

“I think so,” says Burne. “He very cleverly puts a spotlight on how we focus just as much on the people who create the things we like as we do on the things themselves – sometimes more.”

This theme underpins the characters’ obsession with the size of Kafka’s penis. Aside from giving the actors ample opportunity to salivate over innuendo, it’s an example of our tendency to fixate on the little (or perhaps big) details.

Kafka’s Dick jumps on the Alan Bennett bandwagon at an opportune time, as Bennett’s film Lady in the Van is currently showing at cinemas, and later this year Stagecraft is putting on History Boys.

Tickets for Kafka’s Dick are available at www.iTicket.co.nz or by calling 0508 iTICKET (484-253).

ENDS

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