Peter Curry loved this creative and intriguing interpretation of Metamorphosis which did justice to Kafka’s masterpiece.
When you go to see a staged version of a book like Metamorphosis, you’re never quite sure what to expect, and this is doubly true for a student production.
This play was certainly unpredictable, and a lot of the key tropes of Metamorphosis were handled effectively. Gregor (Joe Jukes) was played magnificently, and you could really feel the raw, primal pain as he underwent his transformation. The use of strobe lights, sound and screen also helped to emphatically underline this physical discomfort to the audience, and even put them through some of the pain felt by Gregor and his family.
There was also a creative use of the chorus (Emily Collinson, Holly Whitworth) which followed, and allowed Gregor, or the insect that he had become, to generate noises and actions which one human would have been incapable of. And then he lurked, dangerously hovering above the rest of the cast in his room, in what was a masterful piece of staging, as it didn’t allow the audience to forget Gregor, in exactly the same way that his family were not allowed to forget him.
The play differed from its focus to the original, in that it focused far more on the relationships between the family, and both Mrs Samsa (Elise Hagan) and Greta Samsa (Alexandra Boulton) were brilliant in depicting the trauma that the family was undergoing. Mr Samsa (Matt Gurtler) improved drastically as the play went on, becoming more impassioned and emotional in his perceived defence of his family. The irony of the modern day adaptation of the General’s outfit into a Sainsbury’s uniform was a humorous touch.
The oppression of the outside world was forgotten to an extent after a creative use of the screen behind the play to show the boss’ (Stew Bates) reaction to the news that Gregor would not be turning up. For example, the lodgers were excluded from the stage adaptation, but this did not detract in any way from the performance. The screen continued to be used creatively, to depict memories, flashbacks and trauma, and providing a connection between all of those ideas and the events happening on stage.
Greta’s own metamorphosis, from that of a young girl to a woman, was done in a slightly idiosyncratic scene which played off the insect trope, as she wore a curious contraption which conveyed the idea of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. This deviated from the original story’s idiom of Greta developing in response to the transformation of her brother, and it seemed an odd alternative.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this adaptation of the play, and although there is no way to do justice to the sheer depth of Kafka’s writing in only an hour and ten minutes, this was a creative and intriguing interpretation.