The Trial of Josie K at the Unicorn Theatre

The day after her 12th birthday and Josie K is innocently finishing off some leftover chocolate cake before school when her world is changed by the appearance of a ‘Bureaucrat’ who tells her that she is on trial. “Maybe it’s for something good” her best friend Becca suggests optimistically, and so starts this inventive whirlwind of a play. Josie K whisks you along on her journey as she tries to make sense of the surreal and search for answers amongst unasked or confusing questions.

The Trial of Josie K by Katie Hims. Nkhanise Phiri as Josie K and Tom Moores as Bureaucrat. Credit Mark Senior.
The Trial of Josie K by Katie Hims. Nkhanise Phiri as Josie K and Tom Moores as Bureaucrat. Credit Mark Senior.

This reimagining of Kafka’s novel The Trial is a joy to watch, Katie Hims’ script is funny, taut and pacey. Leigh Toney’s direction is a delicious dance of movement and energy, and the set design (Rose Revitt) perfectly complements the simple complexity of the story.

The performances are all exceptional, it’s a fantastic cast. Nkhanise Phiri plays Josie with such charm and kinetic positivity that she’s a joy to watch, Jadie Rose Hobson is the best friend we all need, steadfast, supportive and endlessly patient and Tom Moores’ ‘Bureaucrat’ manages to be menacing, vulnerable, sarcastic and sincere all at once.

There’s not a dull moment and the push and pull between Josie’s desire to make sense of why and what is happening to her and the Bureacrat’s attempts at distancing and evasion is beautifully played. Both are trapped in their own ways, and both forced to be part of a dualogue dance they didn’t ask for.

There’s something pleasingly timeless about the setting of this play, there’s no mobile phones, gadgets or casually thrown in ‘teen issues,’ Hims is tackling big questions about guilt, remorse and meaning. Loneliness and connection is another strong theme throughout, in both Josie’s anxiety of being replaced by a new friendship group and the Bureacrats existential struggle as a middle manager tormenting a junior for reasons unknown.

A special mention to Elliot Griggs for his perfect lighting design and Beth Duke’s music and sound design which seamlessly support the storytelling.

This is surreal, funny, tender and thoughtful theatre. There’s so much to enjoy, it’s full of ideas and humour – a surreal dreamy nightmare.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

She goes to the meetings, she answers the questions, she’s doing everything they ask, but still, nothing she does is right. Sometimes adults just don’t make any sense.

Who is the man in the suit anyway, and why on earth does he want her to throw a custard pie at him?

Join Josie K as she finds herself caught up in an absurd situation, and needs her best mate Becca and all her courage to find her way out. Inspired by Kafka’s The Trial, this is a story of defiance, the power of friendship and finding hope, even in a world where no one has explained the rules.

A Unicorn Theatre Production

Thu 26 Jan – Sun 19 Feb 2023

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