Jan 11

Kafka’s Metamorphosis Comes to the Stage

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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The Samsa family’s life is turned upside down when their son, Gregor, wakes up one morning to find that he has been turned into a giant insect. This is the premise of the Lyric Hammersmith and Vesturport Production of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a play co-presented by One Yellow Rabbit and Theatre Calgary.

Gregor (Gisli Örn Gardarsson), is the sole provider in the family and him being inexplicably changed into a giant insect has his household coping in different ways. At first, Gregor’s parents Greta (Nina Dogg Filippusdottir) and Herman (Ingvar E Sigurdsson) are horrified and disgusted. Gregor’s sister Lucy (Kelly Hunter) goes to get the doctor, but the family then decides to pretend that it hasn’t happened. They throw Gregor’s chair out the window and go about their business. This proves to be a little difficult, with a giant insect in their house, so Lucy reaches out to Gregor. She brings him food and tries to be kind towards him. She even invites him down to dine with them. This is too much for the family and things begin to break down. They begin to resent Gregor the insect, beating him, starving him, yelling at him about respect. The breaking point is when a potential tenant Herr Fischer (Jonathan McGuinness) comes over to look at renting a room. Gregor, starved and sick can’t keep his presence a secret and everything unravels from there.

Among the outstanding aspect of Metamorphosis is Borkur Jonsson’s set design. The set has astonishing features. It is two stories, with a drab looking downstairs with a lonely plant in the corner and slanted stairs leading to the upper floor. The upper floor features Gregor’s room, which is an eagle eye’s view, with his bed and lamp fastened to the wall. Gardarsson moves around the space with immense physicality, handing from the walls and props insect-like. The floor in his room is a trampoline that he bounces around on, as well as a solid floor that his family walks on. It’s all very intriguing.

Original musical composition by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis from The Bad Seed is haunting and fitting. It adds to the horrifying and disturbing things unfolding on stage. As does Bjorn Helgason’s lighting design along with Nick Manning’s sound design. Gardarsson’s highly physical depiction of Gregor is impressive.

The play tells a sad sickening story and this is smartly depicted by Gardarsson’s direction. Gregor, to the audience is fully human and not the disgusting insect that his family sees. We also understand what he’s saying and he is kind and gentle, simply wanting to hear Lucy play the violin or desperately wanting to provide for his family. Which makes the response to his situation seem even more cruel. The Samsas treat Gregor as if he is not human, which is disturbing to the viewer because in our eyes, there is nothing wrong with him. The narrative has an undercurrent of how our society could treats members that are seen to have something wrong with them.
It doesn’t mean that Metamorphosis will blow you away though. There are many instances where the play seems stiff and the flow of emotions seems off. The interactions between characters on various occasions lacks character motivation. For instance, Greta calls Lucy a hussy during a fight and it doesn’t seem to have any impact and the family’s interaction with Herr can only be described as odd. The bouts of anger seem to come out of nowhere and the dialogue has them saying lines as if they were chorus lines instead of interactions. It’s this element that detracts from the poignancy of the narrative. But overall the story probes at the viewer and offers a spectacular set design, along with great musical composition.

Metamorphosis runs in the High Performance Rodeo until January 13th in the Maxbell Theatre. More information is available at online.
(Three stars out of five)

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