Two years on, I still find it difficult to get past David Tennant as Dr Who. In this Radio 3 drama, he stars as playwright Franz Kafka, living on the breadline in Weimar Germany, already terminally ill, full of regret for a life unfulfilled and a lost love. Except Tennant doesn’t do conventional, the twist is this is a dream-fantasy, with Kafka woken by his father to be told a local impresario has bought the rights to stage a musical version of his life – with Kafka himself as the star…
Murray Gold, composer of many TV sound-tracks (including Dr Who), displays a finesse for dialog, structure and pace. To apply the term “Kafka-esque” would be a cliché, but Gold writes the scenes with appropriate menace, discomfort and alienation. Scenes twist and turn in tone, sinister agents appear levelling charges in connection with crimes not yet committed, and everyone seems to know much more than the protagonist.
The dream setting provides the framework to distort time and location. Adding the excellently-done Kurt Weill-style musical in the last half-hour lifted the drama to a new level of surrealism.
Ably supported by a strong cast, Tennant turns in a poignant, achingly alienated performance as the consumptive, socially inept Kafka, emotionally and physically paralysed and led along by events. Reminiscent of his BBC Hamlet, Tennant does his usual turn of stutters, anxiety and manic intensity, clearly trying to underplay the role. But he’s such a strong personality that at times he overwhelms the drama. It’s had mixed reviews. I found it engaging and entertaining, although I may appreciate the source materials and dramatic forms more than some listeners. RC
Franz Kafka ….. David Tennant
Father ….. David Fleeshman
Mother ….. Joanna Monro
Milena ….. Naomi Frederick
Felice ….. Jessica Raine
Dora ….. Emerald O’Hanrahan
Barman / Singer / Doctor ….. Trevor Allan Davies
Newspaper Seller / Man ….. Brian Bowles
Music by Murray Gold
Directed by Jeremy Mortimer
Available until 9:32PM Sun, 1 May 2011 on BBC iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b010glpd/Drama_on_3_Kafka_the_Musical/
You may also find a copy of the audio files on other sites.