Kafka's Dick 'finds Bennett at the top of his wickedly funny game'
Strong reviews for Alan Bennett's 1986 play Kafka's Dick as part of Bath's Summer Season.
… This year they have opted for the rarely seen 1986 play Kafka's Dick, which in director David Grindley's hands proves to be a consistently funny and stimulating piece of theatre. It… deserves to be a hit….The performances are outstanding. Daniel Weyman's Kafka conveys the writer's nerviness and strangeness whilst being equally convincing as a seducer of women. Elliot Levey's Max Brod is a man of charm and wit…Nicholas Burns' Sydney…, and Samantha Spiro's Linda…are funny and touching…Matthew Kelly is suitably intimidating as Kafka's father, his manic grin and concealing pure self-interest…Bennett has wise and witty things to say about literary reputation and masculine self-importance…The final Wagnerian excursion into another realm feels entirely appropriate and ends a highly entertaining evening on a suitably surprising note.
It says a good deal for the quality of Alan Bennett's Kafka's Dick, first staged in 1986, that when I finally got to Bath by train…I quickly forgot my own troubles and was entirely beguiled by Bennett's witty account of Kafka and his friend and biographer Max Brod. Like many of Bennett's best plays…it is part play, part revue, with a hilarious coup de théâtre at the end which moves the action to an entirely unexpected location….I don't want to give too much away, as the play constantly takes its audience by surprise, shifting between farcical comedy and moments that are genuinely touching. .. Weyman is both funny and touching as the tubercular writer who worries about the size of his penis, and there is a terrific turn from Matthew Kelly as his bullying father. Elliot Levey is superbly entertaining as Brod, trying to conceal all evidence of Kafka's lasting fame from the writer, whose books he promised to burn, and Samantha Spiro is a delight as the neglected wife who develops a soft spot for Kafka when he mysteriously turns up in her kitchen…The title is off-putting and the subject matter threatens doom and gloom. But in David Grindley's fine revival, Kafka's Dick is a play that finds Bennett at the top of his wickedly comic game.
Literary genius and genitals both figure in Alan Bennett's 1986 comedy, which ponders how it happened that writers' private parts became the property of the literary industry, and considers a public eager to know every salacious detail of famous writers' lives… Bennett's play may not be subtle, although it is less of a carry-on than the title might suggest. David Grindley's revival is good fun: it takes a little while to warm up, but eventually finds the momentum and comic timing necessary to carry the absurdities of a situation that Bennett finds easier to set up than he does to resolve. The structure is awkward, the drama broken-backed, but the one-liners come thick and fast…Samantha Spiro steals the acting honours, bringing a real warmth to the naive Linda, a woman who likes to do "something unexpected with avocados"; and Barry McCarthy is very funny as Sydney's elderly father... Not perfect, but definitely no trial.
Most of us would probably be hard pressed to find anyone who had read much of Franz Kafka's works despite his being one of the most influential authors of the 20th century…But that wouldn't stop us knowing a fair bit about his private life including perhaps, as the title of Alan Bennett's play suggests, the most intimate details of his body…If we were looking for someone from whom to learn a bit more about Kafka we could hardly do better than put ourselves into the hands of Alan Bennett… All a bit surreal or Kafkaesque? Probably, yes, but also very, very funny in a very Bennettesque sort of way…This is exactly the kind of first rate stuff we have come to expect from Bath's Summer Season and if there is any justice in the world it's headed straight for London's West End.