Red Peter is an adaptation of Kafka’s short story ” A Report to An Academy”. For those of you familiar with the works of Kafka, you’ll know that strangeness will abide. A captured West African ape, in a suit, talks about his transition into human society. Being a monologue the whole weight of the show sits on the shoulders of a single actor.
Denzil Barnes is magnificent as the eponymous Red Peter, and I do not say this lightly. There is such a generosity and warmth to his performance, which could so easily have been lost in the technical need to jump between ape-ish and human-ish behaviours. His story is told with an animal-like innocence, brutality translated to kindness through his eyes. Even at his most human, the ape is visible, a restless presence constantly searching for a “way out”. This is an actor I expect to see many more wonderful things from in the future.
In places the narrative pace meanders a bit, an understandable challenge when it comes to adapting Kafka, however that does not diminish the overall power of the piece. Even if my mind wandered a couple of times, I was quickly pulled back into the flow of Red Peter’s story, and come the end I was sad to say goodbye. I could have happily spent more time in his company.
Red Peter runs at the etcetera theatre until 6th August, so tonight is the final night to see it (assuming you are reading this post today – future people, I’m afraid you missed it!). I suspect this show will have a future, evolving life, and it is well worth checking out if it appears on your radar. I’d certainly be interested in seeing what they do with it next. As the wonderful Denzil Barnes (yes, a fan has officially been born) told us as we were leaving, no performance is exactly the same.