Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Acclaimed One Woman Show Which Puts Us in the Mind of a Chimp ; Award-Winning Adaptation of a Kafka Short Story about an Ape Forced to Live as a Human Is the Latest Theatre to Come to Home

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Acclaimed One Woman Show Which Puts Us in the Mind of a Chimp ; Award-Winning Adaptation of a Kafka Short Story about an Ape Forced to Live as a Human Is the Latest Theatre to Come to Home

Article excerpt

IT is almost a century since author Franz Kafka wrote A Report To An Academy - a short story in which a chimpanzee christened Red Peter is shot and captured in his African homeland, shipped to Europe and compelled to transform into a humanesque intellectual to survive.

Kafka - born into a Jewish family in Austro-Hungarian (now the Czech Republic) - faced prejudice through his own life because of his religious heritage, and almost 100 years on actress Kathryn Hunter says the undercurrents of racism and assimilation are louder than ever.

"One metaphor is the apes as the other - as an immigrant from another world," she explains.

"There's a cost for the immigrants who try to assimilate into another culture.

"As Red Peter says at the beginning of the play - 'in order to become one of you, I had to forget my past'.

"Kafka's family tried to assimilate as much as they could into the German culture.

"He ignored his Jewishness, and only gradually realised there were extraordinary things about it he wanted to embrace."

Kathryn read the original story as a teenager and was immediately fascinated by its perspective - pitched from the point of view of an animal.

"Then I forgot about it for a long time, and I was performing in Peter Brook's Fragments at the Young Vic in Rockaby, and Walter (Meierjohann, HOME's artistic director for theatre) saw me.

"He said, 'I have a proposition, I hope you won't be offended... Would you like to play a chimpanzee?'," Kathryn laughs.

"I didn't know Walter but I go on instinct, and he was so passionate it.

"Kafka does this wonderful: what if another species could speak to us, what would they say? "That is intellectually and philosophically an amazing proposition.

"What I find beautiful is, of course, there's lots of pain and rage in the chimpanzee, but unlike in Planet Of The Apes where all the chimpanzees take their revenge on human kind, this chimpanzee has compassion for humanity; he makes his report on what it's like to come into the human world, but at the end I find that Kafka is not full of hate but wonder at the human race. …

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