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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

Metamorphosis
By Franz Kafka

Liverpool Playhouse
Feb 8 -   2008

Adapted and Directed by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson
Music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Image: Metamorphosis promotional image

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

 

How many superlatives can you heap on one production? In the case of Kafka’s Metamorphosis at the Liverpool Playhouse, plainly not enough!

Lyric Hammersmith and Vesturport Theatre’s representation of this strange play was
breathtaking in its physicality, with superb acting and innovative staging.


In the hands of maverick actor/director Gisli Orn Gardarsson this disturbing play of alienation in the guise of a man turned insect rejected by his family, shows us the ingrained traits of all humanity. Gregor suddenly turns from the dynamic wage earner in the group  to a broken human who metamorphoses into an insect.

Gregor (Bjorn Thors) is mind-blowing in the role of the man-insect who literally climbs the walls of his loft bedroom, constructed above the main sitting room and viewed from the auditorium as a bird’s eye view. It is very cleverly staged, intensified by Gregor’s acrobatic twists and turns as he moves from wall to ceiling. How he manages to speak his lines whilst hanging upside down is amazing. As his illness becomes more and more grotesque, Thors’ acting intensifies with distorted facial expressions and a body that speaks suffering and angst.

Meanwhile, sister Grete (Unnar Osp Stefansdottir), his mother  (Elva Osk Olafsdottir) and father (Tom Mannion) try to live their lives as if nothing is happening. Overcome with revulsion they literally cut him out of their lives and their minds, and needing money attempt to take in a lodger. Whilst poor Gregor lies starving in his locked room above, prospective lodger Herr Fischer (Jonathan McGuinness) is offered food and wine as he flatters the two women and the father. When Gregor comes crashing through the ceiling on hearing his young sister play her violin the man flees – saying that people like them should be exterminated.

The ending, when Gregor hangs himself, with the agreement of his family, is full of pathos and jaw-dropping amazement. Swathed in a long red cloth he gradually unwinds down onto the main stage whilst the rain thrashes though the window light above. Then in the bedroom, the sun shines though, flowers and trees spring into view and the family,  talk of going to see the Prince’s gardens – whilst Gregor lies dying below.

Whatever intention Kafka had in writing the story of this play no-one really knows, but it  echoes his own life of loneliness and alienation, and hints at the plight of Jews in pre-WW1 Czechoslovakia. . Thors’ athletic thin body could be Kafka, a weak, skinny man who died of TB aged 41. But Kafka was plainly not as strong as this actor who excelled in this part, and almost stole the plaudits from the other protagonists who all gave strong performances, beautifully directed by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson. The tonal music, by Cave and Ellis, emphasised the haunting weirdness of this tale.

If this is the only play you see this year – go see it! For Liverpool, Capital of Culture 2008, it is a jewel the city’s playgoers will always remember.

Jeanette Smith

Read Chris High's review of 'Metamorphosis' here

 

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website
www.everymanplayhouse.com


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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