BWW Reviews: METAMORPHOSIS is Thrilling, Thought Provoking, and Thoroughly Entertaining
As I entered the auditorium of the Royal Alexandra Theatre this afternoon, I was relieved to be inside from the cold, and sat myself down to enjoy what I assumed would be ninety minutes of comfort in my plush seat. My comfort was short lived, however, as soon I found myself enthralled in the play Metamorphosis, adapted by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson from the short story by Franz Kafka.
Billed as a comic story, Metamorphosis tells the story of Gregor Samsa (portrayed by actor Bjorn Thors), a Czech travelling salesman who awakens one morning to find he has been turned into a giant insect. His family goes through the predicable states of being after experiencing such a trauma: shock, grief, fear, and eventually anger.
Gregor's sister Greta, portrayed by the serviceable Unnur Osp Stefansdottir, eventually takes over his care. As the burden of earning an income becomes all-consuming for her, she allows Gregor to go unfed. As a result of going for days with no food, Gregor falls ill - and his care becomes too much to handle for the family.
The siblings' mother, Lucy (Edda Arnljotsdottir), decides to go see her son up in his enclosed room after not visiting for an extended period. The visit becomes too much for her and she suffers an asthma attack.
In an final attempt to earn some extra money - the family decides to rent a room to a boarder. The boarder turns out to be a fellow salesperson from the shop where Greta is employed. Immediately after the financial transaction for the room is completed, Gregor makes an appearance, scaring off the boarder.
The family decides they can no longer care for Gregor and that he must be exterminated. Not wanting to be a burden any longer, Gregor returns to his room to commit suicide. The story ends showing the family focusing on Greta's happiness.
The author of the original short story, Franz Kafka, explores the theme of alienation in many of his works. Kafka, who was born to Jewish parents in Prague in 1883, experienced isolation throughout his life, as he and his family often faced anti-Semitism. He also struggled with his national identity, facing inner turmoil because the Czech people were opposed to using German, which he considered his mother tongue.
The parallels between the author's life and this piece are fascinating, and it's evident that Kafka's life experiences shine through the slightly comic representation. Kafka may not have known at the time, but his story would become a prophecy for his own life, as he passed away at the young age of 40 from tuberculosis. In his final days, like Gregor, he too was unable to communicate with his loved ones due to swelling in his throat. Those expecting to see a comedy should be warned that this is not a show for a "light afternoon" at the theatre, as this show leaves you feeling anything but hopeful.
While both Stefansdottir (Greta) and Arnljotsdottir (Lucy) are merely passable in their roles, the standout performances of the evening are from Thors as well as Tom Mannion as the father, Herman.
Mannion is extremely impressive in a role impossible to redeem. While I was both shocked and disgusted by the way Gregor was being treated by his father, I still managed to feel sympathy for Mannion's Herman.
Those unable to go see the Olympics live in Sochi can make their way down to the Royal Alex to see some of the most impressive gymnastics I have ever seen exhibited by Thors as Gregor. In this production, no costuming is used to evoke the portrayal of the insect - and Thors uses only his movement to create a creature I found disturbing, despite their being no visual imagery to frighten me.
The set is brilliantly designed, using creative angles and lighting to create impressive visuals. This unusual production is thrilling, thought provoking, and thoroughly entertaining - and should be on any theatre goers list of things to see in the city this winter.
Photo: Björn Thors as Gregor. By Simon Kane.
When and Where?
Now playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre through March.
Tickets available at Mirvish.com.