Metamorphosis

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

A play by Steven Berkoff from a short story by Franz Kafka. A unique and challenging piece of physical theatre performed by students from Comberton Village College and Comberton Sixth Form.

 

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Metamorphosis Review - Beatlemania!

 

Sacrifice. Transformation. Alienation. So runs the thematic thread of the exciting new production at CVC. Get yourself into "The Cocoon" for the mind-expanding, sense-shaking experience of - Metamorphosis! 

Both claustrophobic and expansive, the staging arrests the audience from the start. The Asylum-esque acting space with its white walls circumscribes our vision; yet the area feels open too with the sweeping sheets and curtains lending an airy, wisp-like, dreamy quality, enhanced by the stark and atmospheric use of lighting. The soundtrack, composed by CVC's own Music Tech students, dominates the space: heartbeats help internalise the events, an almost industrial hum haunts the audience, evoking the angst of the Samsa family as much as it conveys the essence of a modern cityscape. Perhaps the most disturbing elements of the soundscape, however, are the scuttling clicks of the insect joints creaking and insect legs tapping hard surfaces.


In an opening sequence that perfectly captures the soulless, work-a-day routines of city life, the cast are at their most versatile, creating a series of striking silhouettes, which includes the arresting opening symbol of a human clock ticking away. Quickly though, the focus narrows around the superb Dan Davey in the lead role of Gregor Samsa. Out of sync with the rest of his family, the troubled, introspective Gregor must confront the alienation which results from his self-imposed martyrdom to support his sister, mother, and father. Davey's hoarse voice powerfully suggests his inability to communicate, while Gregor's struggle, his cries and contortions are visually enhanced by Rob Slatter, as the protagonist's shadow or alter ego. An ever-twisting Slatter scuttles hunchbacked about the set with, seemingly, two pairs of elbows. Gregor's paralysed voice and tortured limbs are brilliantly mirrored by Slatter's silent, arachnid crawling.


Heinrich Verwoerd's Mr. Samsa is a powerful, selfish patriarch whose superficial control is ultimately undermined by overly grand gestures and bombastic dismissals of his son's problem. Verwoerd's skilful portrayal of this domineering, bullying approach ensures the audience's disgust at his insensitivity. Contrastingly, Emily Dowd's assured Mrs. Samsa vacillates dramatically between compassion and horror at her son. She effectively captures these wild swings of mood in classic Berkovian fashion to render the character almost two-dimensional until the very end, where her last eye-contact with her son is profoundly moving. Daughter, Greta, played by the wonderfully expressive Alice Heydinger, draws the audience's sympathy, unlike the others. She is the bravest and the most loyal to her brother for the whole play... almost; her shocking abandonment of her Gregor at the end is every bit as brutal a transformation as her brother's into a beetle.


Though the play is predominantly focused on exploring the metamorphosis within the family, the outside bowler-hatted world does force its way in. Chief Clerk (Ashley Kemp) nails the proud, officious functionary of the business world to a T. Meanwhile, the demanding lodgers (Tinie Cohen, Conor Hunt, and Oli Wilkinson) provide some unnerving comic relief, simultaneously dark and slapstick. The laughter is uneasy.

 

- Mike Ryall