Review | Laura Money
Gentlemen, esteemed academicians!
You do me the honour of inviting me to submit a report to the academy on my previous life as an ape.
After much shuffling and scratching, sneezing and snorting in the darkness, the figure of South African born Tony Bonani Miyambo shakily holds onto the lectern onstage as if it were a lifeboat to give the opening lines of Kafka’s Ape. Miyambo is uncannily brilliant in his portrayal of a former ape in this thinly veiled metaphor of gentrification and eugenics based on Franz Kafka’s short story ‘A Report to an Academy’ in which a former ape speaks to academics about his transformation.
Kafka’s Ape is a one-man tour-de-force, Miyambo’s physical performance skills shine as he cavorts around the stage in barely restrained ape-like mannerisms – from unbridled anger at his past treatment, to shame and embarrassment in having to be viewed as little more than a spectacle. It’s quite difficult to watch – the audience is invited to sit in discomfort for an hour as Miyambo’s visceral report brings to the fore the associations with it – namely black subjugation, slavery, concepts of social Darwinism, Imperialism, and animal rights and cruelty. Tears well in his eyes as Miyambo recounts the former ape’s moment of capture and subsequent humiliation in the cage of the humans.
I read an article … to the effect that my apish nature has not been altogether suppressed…
This section, more than any other marries Miyambo’s own identity and relationship with his South African roots – a country mired in the legacy of Apartheid. Miyambo is only the second black actor to portray the Ape – a deliberate choice that stands as defiantly as he does in the face of abject racism. The piece is larger than its origins – it speaks to the disenfranchised, it’s about being uncomfortable in your own skin and the daily performances that all mariginalised people must enact. Miyambo himself calls the play: ‘an allegorical observation of South African society through the eyes of others.’ The ex-ape is being examined – scruitinised for any little sign that his transformation was not successful and his humanity should thus be revoked. Kafka’s Ape resonates with an Australian audience – it’s hard to not conjure up images of Aboriginal people photographed in stiff, Victorian clothing – I truly believe that everyone in Perth should see this play.
I cannot stress how brilliant Miyambo is. He takes the character on fully in a highly emotive and gut-wrenchingly phenomenal performance that bitterly spits in defiance at the history of black performance for white entertainment – he is a literal performing ape, he recounts being caged, tortured, and ridiculed. Miyambo’s barely contained ape-like mannerisms roil and bubble beneath his black skin and he visibly suppresses them while addressing an audience he is both defiant of and polite to. This is more than just a wonderful performance – it’s a metamorphosis Kafka himself would be proud of – Miyambo is simply the perfect performer.
WHEN: 17th – 25th January 2020 | 6:30pm & 7:30pm
WHERE: The Studio | BLUE ROOM THEATRE
INFO: Pricing $23 – $28 | Duration 50m | Suitability: M | Content warning: Animal cruelty | THEATRE