Monday, 19 May 2014

The Metamorphosis

I missed The Metamorphosis when it was performed at the Royal Opera House in early 2013. Luckily, it is now on DVD! 

John Ross ©
The Metamorphosis was performed in the Linbury Studio Theatre, it's venue for more experimental work, it seems. Arthur Pita's The Metamorphosis definitely falls into this category. 

Based on Franz Kafka's unsettling tale about Gregor Samsa, who awakes one morning to find himself "transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin", it is probably the most nauseating thing I have ever seen in dance (and I mean this as a compliment). 

Edward Watson's portrayal of this monstrous vermin is pure genius. As in Kafka's novella, we find him lying in his bed, tense limbs stretched upwards, fingers and toes wriggling like feelers. Like an insect trapped on its back, he struggles to turn over, twisting and writhing in a way that resembles nothing human. He crawls to the end of the bed and vomits a black liquid onto the floor. Then, hearing knocks at his door, he drags himself across the room, spreading the black liquid across its surfaces. By the end of this ballet, the entire stage will be transformed from a blindingly clean white to a brown, slippery mess.

John Ross ©
In scenes that closely follow the original story, we see Gregor face his family, his boss and various other characters. For me, these encounters are interesting only in so far as they allow Watson to develop the character of Gregor. While an attempt was made to give depth to the other characters, they are just not that interesting.

Watson evolves his character from from frightened, to curious, to self-loathing. In a particularly nightmarish scene (and the only departure from Kafka's original story), three monstrous insects covered from head to toe in a black liquid (treacle actually) crawl over the walls into Gregor's room and writhe across the floor. The scene marks a turning point in the plot, after which it becomes clear that there is no going back for Gregor. All the while, looking into his eyes, we truly believe he is a human trapped in an insect's body. When, in the end, he throws himself out of his window, we feel truly sorry for him. I can see why critics call Watson one of the most exciting dancers working in Britain today!
©Tristram Kenton

Arthur Pita's The Metamorphosis is a fantastic adaptation of Kafka's work. Personally, I found watching it even more engaging that reading it. It is a testament to power of dance to express deep and complicated emotions. 


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