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Kafka’s Metamorphosis – Collide Theatre

Adaptor and Director: Emily Louizou

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Franz Kafka’s 1915 story of a man who wakes up one day as an insect continues to haunt us, and Collide Theatre has inserted movement into its very faithful adaptation to focus on the absurdities   in this satire on modern life. For the main, it’s a rewarding approach.

The storytelling in Collide’s version of Metamorphosis is crystal-clear due to the fact that the five actors narrate a good deal of Kafka’s text, both individually, and as a chorus when they speak the words of Gregor himself. Standing in a line it seems at first as if the actors are going to narrate the whole story with the minimum of fuss, and a little too sanguinely at that. Fortunately, after 10 minutes or so, after Gregor has ‘turned’, the cast begins to become more inventive.

Caught in cycles of jerky movement, the actors indicate that time passes as women mop floors, as Gregor’s parents ignore what their son has become and as Gregor’s sister practises the violin with music that captures the essence of Central Europe. Their response to Gregor’s transformation quickly makes the audience pity the insect that is now locked in its room.

Admirably, no-one plays Gregor, and so the details of his grotesque form are left for the audience to imagine; indeed, it could be that the audience watching this film, or the audience inside the New Diorama where the show was filmed, are the insect. It’s a clever move ensuring the audience empathise more with Gregor than his embarrassed parents. One of the most memorable adaptations of the story came in a TV film in 1987 where Tim Roth played Gregor with no insect make-up or prosthetics, where his grotesqueness became every human’s ordinary grotesqueness.

As Gregor begins to realise the burden he is on his family, the movement, choreographed by Ioli Filippakopoulou, becomes more frantic, and the set, designed by Ioana Curelea, is ripped up and destroyed. At times, it’s not clear how these actions reflect the occurrences in the novella, but they certainly make for an exciting finale, especially as the start is so underwhelming.

It’s this kind of show that demands to be seen live in a theatre where the set’s transformation is more easily seen to match Gregor’s metamorphosis, but this filmed version in a 360° recording will not disappoint and while it will make an excellent introduction to those who don’t know the story, it will delight those who worry what they have become each morning when they awake.

Runs here until 7 February 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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