Metamorphosis – Smock Alley – Collaborations Festival Review

metamorphosis poster

Metamorphosis by Kepler Theatre Company ran as part of the Collaborations Festival at Smock Alley – Review by Helen O’Leary.

Metamorphosis was a novella first published by Franz Kafka in 1915 and to mark the centenary of his seminal work Kepler Theatre Works have re-imagined it for the stage.

The story goes that a young travelling salesman called Gregor wakes one morning to find he has been transformed into a large monstrous insect-like creature. He struggles to move from his bed and when his family discover him they are appalled and by the metamorphosis. Previously the hard working and responsible son, the play describes Gregor’s attempts to adjust to his new condition and with being a burden to his family.

Initially his parents and sister Grete wrestle with feelings of both sympathy and revulsion toward him. They know that the verminous creature is still Gregor but gradually their compassion wanes and Gregor’s sense of imprisonment and abandonment grows.

Kafka’s work is well known for its elements of the absurd and bizarre. Gregor’s metamorphosis is never explained and Gregor’s family are oddly accepting of his fate. Absurdly even as the realisation of his altered state is dawning Gregor obsesses about being late for work. There is something curiously modern about his work obsession, he feels the need to reach there at all costs despite his incapacity. I was curious to see how Gregor would be represented in his transformed state. Rather than trying to represent the grotesque with a costume we are left to rely on our imaginations. With awkward and cumbersome movements Gregor rests on his beetle back or is thrown awkwardly across his bed for much of the play and it’s easy to fill in the rest with your imagination.

This pared back presentation of the novel seems to capture the essence of Kafka’s work. It employs several devices to enliven the text. Gregor’s family are lined up sitting on a bench, and comically they speak in unison, their chorus representing Gregor’s internal voice. Dialogue is used sparingly and the actors movements are often puppet-like. In contrast a narrator roams the stage freely and carries the story. His cold, indifferent voice strikes a dark note and heightens the tragedy of Gregor’s situation.

Metamorphosis by Kepler Theatre Company ran as part of the Collaborations Festival at Smock Alley.

Directed by Orna O’Connor and Clara Mallon

Cast: Shane Connolly, Lorcain Strain, Eilis Carey, Amanda Ryan, George Worrall, Stephen Gorman

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