If your impression of Kafka wasn’t already mysterious enough, then this performance will introduce you to yet another layer of intrigue in the life of this artist-philosopher.
Kafka and Dora meet a little girl in the park who had lost her doll and motivates him to construct an elaborate white lie about how her doll had in fact embarked on travels to faraway places, initiating him to write a series of postcards in Belinda’s name to console her. This real-life anecdote from Kafka’s time in Berlin has inspired several contemporary writers to interpret it themselves, and here we have a chance to see it also in theatrical form. The fact that the original texts that Kafka wrote were never found allows the writers free rein on the content of these postcards sent from exotic corners of the world.
Here we get the opportunity to witness the story with the added dimension of a puppet in the role of the little girl who has lost her beloved Belinda. In this case the puppet allows the human actors to project the playful conflicts of their relationship on the responsive and unbiased mask of the puppet – or the child – as adults may do. We get the chance to see a charming exercise in how storytelling can engage and distract the imagination and emotions from the distresses that life can bring, it’s often not defined if they are constructing this world more to please her or themselves.
The puppet is sweet – despite being a touch creepy looking – and somehow I feel like she represents us just as much as the little girl. Referencing the animation of a life of a doll with another doll which allows Kafka it lose himself in his imagination without quite knowing who it’s really for or about just makes the play all the more Kafkaesque.
The character of Dora is presented charmingly as the educator-interpreter of Kafka’s über komplex mind, which I find maybe touches on more of a contemporary trend for oversimplifying stories and language for the benefit of children. Here the ‘translations’ from Kafka’s enigmatic language come across more as an opportunity for Dora to make some playful jabs at her beloved Kafka’s over analytic and metaphorical nature which she clearly adores but also appears to drive her a bit crazy. Nonetheless, Dora enjoys and collaborates in Kafka’s fantastic portrayals of Belinda’s travels, helping him bring them to life with the help of simple but effective props and a delicate soundscape. Surely it would have been just as necessary for them to escape into their imaginations from the hardships of interwar Berlin with or without meeting the little girl.
It’s a very enjoyable performance that is well worth seeing, especially if you are curious to see a more romantic portrait of the human side of a writer most commonly known for losing himself in the labyrinth of his imagination in dealing with emotional distress, here it is rather a tool for wading through the hardships of life in tact.