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July 14, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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If you were to wake tomorrow and realise you were different to what you knew, how would you deal with it? And how would you expect the people around you, those closest to you and whom you love the most, to handle this change? This change could come from a range of forces – for instance, maybe your job changes how think or act. Metamorphosis deals with this theme of change in a very physical sense, where the central character wakes to find that he has become a bizarre beetle-like creature overnight. His family freak out and lock him in his room. Fuck, I would have too! But these actions raise some interesting questions about humanity – how do we handle change?

Metamorphosis is based on a story by Franz Kafka, the German writer whose name has become synonymous with the twisted, the strange and the bizarre. Overnight, Gregor Samsa (played magnificently by Simon Vincent) turns into a weird beetle. His parents (Donogh Rees and Nick Dunbar) and sister (Angela Green) must deal with this bizarre transformation the best they can, fending off Gregor’s boss (Craig Geenty) as well as keeping Gregor’s transformation a secret from three lodgers staying in the house (Geenty, Francis Biggs, Salesi Le’ota). Things rapidly fall apart, and the family begin treating the bug which was their son with ever greater disgust and disdain.

Simon Vincent’s portrayal of Gregor is immaculate. Physically agile, vocally raw and very very sweaty, he never for a moment looked silly or uncomfortable. Vincent’s extreme physicality and performance style is matched by the entire cast, all of whom were heightened in physical and vocal style to such a point as to become completely removed from any semblance of normality – even a task as simple as sewing became jolted and disconnected. The world of the play was one of strangeness and isolation, and was fascinating to watch and experience.

The show’s set, designed by Brian King, was instantly arresting. Vast scaffolding, arranged so as to give the illusion of depth, provide ample opportunity for Gregor to scurry across the ‘roof’ making all manner of unnerving noises. Superbly lit by Ulli Breise, the visual image is dazzling.

Where the show really hits great heights is in its sound design. Murray Hickman has composed some extremely creepy sounds, such as the opening pulse which sounds like a creature sleeping. The soundscape throughout the show is raw enough to really help illustrate the monstrous nature of the beast locked in the bedroom.

Change can be isolating. Metamorphosis shows us this through the way its characters become alienated and unable to properly communicate once a change has occurred. Why exactly this change has occurred is left up to the imagination. It may be a metaphor for Gregor’s dislike of his work and bureaucracy, ultimately changing him into a monster. But this point is just speculation. The fact is that change can be frightening and unexpected, but what this show teaches us is that when change happens, not just that which happens within ourselves but also that which happens in those we love, must be embraced. Or, it seems, we will die. As beetles.

Written by Steven Berkoff, from the story
by Franz Kafka
Directed by Jude Gibson
At Bats
July 9 – 19

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