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Staging of Kafka musical a global first

ON STAGE Kafka the Musical Where: Little Fernwood Hall, 1923 Fernwood Rd. When: To Dec. 16 Tickets: $10, $14 at 250-5906291 and ($2 online surcharge) It all started as a joke, really.


Kafka the Musical

Where: Little Fernwood Hall, 1923 Fernwood Rd.

When: To Dec. 16

Tickets: $10, $14 at 250-5906291 and ($2 online surcharge)

It all started as a joke, really.

Murray Gold says Kafka the Musical is rooted in a conversation he had back in the late 1980s, when he was 20. At the time, it seemed musicals were being made about all sort of unlikely figures. (Anna Nicole Smith, Jerry Springer and Rocky Balboa are all subjects of musical theatre.)

"I said, 'Wouldn't it be funny if poor Franz Kafka had that done to him?' It would be almost like being trapped in one of his own terrible contrivances," Gold said from his Manhattan home recently.

Kafka the Musical is being staged by Theatre Inconnu, a small Victoria company known for adventuresome theatre. BBC Radio first broadcast the musical last year, but this marks the first time Kafka the Musical is performed as live theatre.

The central figure, played in Victoria by Prem-tim Plakolli, is Franz Kafka. A tremendously influential 20th-century author, Kafka is best known for The Metamorphosis. In the 1915 novella, a salesman awakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Today, not surprisingly, the term "Kafka-esque" is often used to describe surreal and disturbing situations.

The idea of the musical tickled Gold because of the strangeness of Kafka's writing and his pop-cult status as a symbol of human alienation (somewhat like Munch's The Scream).

Kafka's works include The Hunger Artist, about a man who deliberately starves himself, and In the Penal Colony, about a machine that inscribes the victim's crime upon his body before execution.

Gold is best known as the musical director for Doctor Who, the long-running British science-fiction television series. British-born Gold is a composer of note who has been nominated four times for British Academy of Film, Television and Arts awards. He also scored the British film Death at a Funeral and wrote music for Queer as Folk. He composed the music for the new ballet Rapunzel, in collaboration with British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, which was commissioned by Sadler's Wells Theatre in London.

Gold, who's also a dramatist, says Kafka the Musical was created at the request of BBC Radio, which had previously commissioned plays from him.

Theatre Inconnu artistic director Clayton Jevne was tipped to Kafka the Musical by a theatregoer who'd heard the BBC broadcast.

When Jevne visited New York City to perform his one-man show Moscow Stations, he arranged a meeting with Gold. Over pints of beer, the dramatist/composer declared his support for a Theatre Inconnu stage première of Kafka the Musical.

Last week, Gold admitted he'd never even heard of Victoria before. He seemed bemused at the prospect of his musical having its world première here.

"I've actually been wondering what to expect from an island off the coast of Canada," he said.

Gold says he'd originally mistakenly believed Kafka the Musical was going to open here last year. With this in mind, he flew his parents to Vancouver in 2011, thinking he'd join them in Victoria for the opening. "And when they got [to Vancouver] I told them it wasn't on for another year," Gold said, laughing.

He's rewritten Kafka the Musical to make it suitable for stage. In the show, Kafka is approached by a producer to star in a musical about his life. The three main women in his life are also represented.

"He was very successful with women," Gold said. "Not successful in a conventional way. He didn't marry anyone; he was unsuccessful in forming a long-time relationship. But women found him very attractive."

Kafka was the sort of man who would propose marriage, then try to extricate himself from the situation. "He's quite a modern character in that way," Gold said. "You see that kind of man in New York, dare I say. These non-committal 40-year-olds. Sort of Woody Allen-ish."

Don't go expecting Annie or South Pacific. Set in the 1920s and shifting between reality and dream-like states, Kafka the Musical sounds decidedly unconventional.

Gold says the musical "just sort of happens to [Kafka] rather than him participating in it" - although he does sing at the end.

"And I don't know if I should even tell anybody," he added, " but there's no music until the third act."

Note: Doctor Who fans - and those curious about Kafka the Musical - will be able to meet Murray Gold on Sunday night.

Gold will give a public talk at 7 p.m. at Little Fernwood Hall, 1923 Fernwood Rd. Admission is $10. Seniors, students and the unwaged admitted by donation.