May 302014

MetamorphosisAn adaptation of Franz Kafka‘s story. The Beav and I saw it at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. The director and main actors were Icelandic.

Metamorphosis is not an obvious text to adapt for the stage. Until its final paragraphs, the text limits its point of view to that of Gregor Samson, who has transformed into a bug, cannot communicate with others, and spends most of the story trapped alone with his thoughts inside his room.

The play obviously has to invent material that can be watched for an hour and a half. It accomplishes this in two ways: by staging Gregor’s experience in his room as a circus played out on the walls and ceiling of his upstairs room and by reading every reference the story makes to the family as a script for a very spare, very modern family drama.

The circus was amazing to watch. Gregor literally crawls the walls and the ceiling of his room. Midway through the first act, I began to wonder how the actor could keep up physically with the performance. It was that intense.

Metamorphosis at the Sydney Theatre

The actors in the family drama sounded very much like Björk does when she gives interviews. Now, I love Björk (and Dancer in the Dark was crazy good) but this accent plus the very stiff but exaggerated action was off-putting. I felt as if Gregor’s world upstairs was imaginative and energetic and the family’s world downstairs was community theatre. And yet clearly this difference was intentional: the family’s performance was controlled and purposeful and slowly evolved, until by the end, the family drama had come alive. Their final moments together in the gardens were quite moving.

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