“What if you turn into a bug”: The Metamorphosis

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Metamorphosis is an ironic adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel directed by Steven Berkoff. It depicts a fantastic tale that a salesman turned into a bug one day, and his life is changed dramatically.

Written by Bingchen Li

'One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug' is the opening sentence from Franz Kafka's masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. The director Steven Berkoff is a good storyteller that he successfully transforms the original into a show. As the curtain rises at the very beginning of the play, the whole stage is showed to the audience directly. There is only a framed structure at the center and 3 actors sit on the chairs. Those are all props used in the play. The main character is Gregor Samsa, a salesman who needs to travel a lot and around the nation to get more orders. He lives with his parents and his little sister, Greta. After a long day of hardworking, as usual, Gregor felt uncomfortable and went to the bed. However, when he waked up, he found that he turned into a bug. His life dramatically changed because of the metamorphosis.

Minimalist stage, only a framed stucture and chairs

Audiences could know the background from the beginning of the play that the Samsa family's living expenses rely on Gregor's work. Gregor needs to work hard to feed his families, such as his father's cigar, his mother's clothes, and his sister's violin classes. Gregor does not show up for breakfast and late for work because he turns into a bug. We can notice that when Chief Clerk comes to his home, his parents and sister treat Chief like he is the dearest guest. It all because Gregor's salary is the only income for his family, and that is why his boss is so arrogant.

Good use of light and shadow to express depressed atmosphere

In addition, people's attitudes are other details that we should pay attention to. Before his transformation, his father is proud of his son, and his sister thinks he is the best brother in the world. Gregor's boss treats him like cattle. However, after his transformation, people's attitudes changed hugely. His father hits Gregor by an apple. His mother does not want to feed him and is fear to face him. Greta loved his brother at the beginning, but when she found Gregor was worthless to her, she suggested her parents expel Gregor. The reason behind the attitude changing is the Samsa family and his boss only care about their own benefit so that ignore the sympathy and relationship between people.

The actor tries to perform an insect with vivid body language

Compare to watch the play in person, I prefer a recorded online performance. Audiences could notice more details through close-ups, such as facial expressions and body language. Gregor's fingers trembled just like antennas of an insect. There are no props in the show but three chairs, so actors pretend their hands are forks and knives to eat. In addition, Gregor's room is a framed structure, or from my perspective, more like a cage. It is a metaphor to express Gregor's life. Before the transformation, he worked to feed his family. He was chained by the family. After becoming a bug, he was locked in the room, waiting to be fed.

All in all, this is a really impressive performance, I highly recommend you to watch it during the time the whole world turned upside down. Be safe!

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