Cut Kafka! is a collaborative work between T.H.E Dance Company (T.H.E) and Nine Years Theatre (NYT), inspired by Franz Kafka’s life and works. The early drafts of the script were inspired by a number of different texts by or about Kafka—The Metamorphosis, The Trial, The Castle, The Hunger Artist, and personal letters addressed to his father—which were researched by writer and performer Neo Hai Bin. These texts were researched based on the initial ideas and framework laid down by co-directors/choreographers Kuik Swee Boon and Nelson Chia. However, the final work is not intended to be biographical or a presentation of his texts. Instead, what we have created is a contemporary response to the themes in Kafka’s works.
The world that we come up with on stage is a space that can be imagined as a writer’s mind. The writer may, or may not, be Franz Kafka, various themes are dissected and examined in this mind space, and what unfolds can be described as us dreaming about the writer, as well as the writer writing about us.
Kafka’s works are generally associated with a bleak sense of humour. We decided to move in the opposite direction and explore our own hypothesis: what if the writer (in our script) actually intended for The Metamorphosis to be a utopic story with a happy ending? But for some reason, his characters keep disobeying their creator and begin to morph into beetle-like creatures.
In the process, we began to freely conjure multiple interpretations of transformation: the iconic beetle appears, but in a part-human, part-creature shape. A man decides to learn the technique of transformation and is struck by an epiphany when he witnesses a cocoon becoming a butterfly. The most famous mythological shapeshifter of Chinese literature Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) pops up in one scene. Or how a double entendre in one of the lines that equates metamorphosis (变形) to perversion (变态) carries a darker sociological subtext. In the end, we question who or what are the forces behind our decisions to change or not change.
Kafka’s themes are so universal that the adjective “Kafkaesque” has been coined to describe the feelings inherent in his writings. In Singapore, we have created a social system that is highly efficient and practical, but at the same time, people may feel trapped in an endless cycle of productivity with no end in sight. We say that this phenomenon is fairly Kafkaesque. Furthermore, one of the defining traits of being Kafkaesque is a nightmarish feeling—the nightmare of not being able to express oneself in our own ways. Does that not strike a chord amongst us Singaporeans?
Co-Directors/Choreographers: Kuik Swee Boon, Nelson Chia (in collaboration with the performers)
Co-Producers: Jael Chew, Mia Chee
Writer-Researcher: Neo Hai Bin
Performers (T.H.E Dance Company): Anthea Seah, Brandon Khoo, Billy Keohavong, Lynette Lim, Ng Zu You
Performers (Nine Years Theatre): Mia Chee, Hang Qian Chou, Neo Hai Bin, Jean Toh, Timothy Wan
Set and Costume Concept: Kuik Swee Boon, Nelson Chia
Lighting and Spatial Designer: Adrian Tan
Assistant Lighting and Spatial Designer: Pek Limin
Music Composer and Sound Designer: Chong Li-Chuan
Costume Design/Wardrobe Coordination: Loo An Ni
Choreography Assistant: Anthea Seah
Movement Training: Anthea Seah, Billy Keohavong
Voice Coach: Timothy Wan
Speech Coach: Mia Chee
Surtitles Translation: Cherilyn Woo
Production Manager: Tennie Su
Stage Manager: Shining Goh
Assistant Stage Manager: Gordon Lai
Set Realisation and Coordination: ARTFACTORY
Crew/Dresser: Stefanie Chan
Sound Engineer: Rong Zhao
Surtitlist: Shang Dianjun
Front of House Coordinators: Natalie Wong, Lee Loo Yen
Key Visual & Title Design: qu'est-ce que c'est design
Key Visual Photographer: Studio W Photography
Key Visual Makeup: The Make Up Room
House Programme Images: Shining Goh; Nine Years Theatre
(Source: Nine Years Theatre Programme)