By César Sánchez Revuelta
Metamorphosis is about to start. The set is dominated by the colour white, the same uneasy white that you would find in the corridors of a hospital. The stage would be completely submerged in darkness if it wasn’t for two pale lights that blind me in the eye. In the background, I can hear sounds that I cannot describe with any other word than “inhuman”.
Metamorphosis by Kafka is the story of how a man wakes up as a giant insect and how his family has to deal with it. It is not fun. It is not normal. It is uncomfortable. And that is exactly how you feel during the play. This production has managed to capture the very essence of Kafka, bringing an experience that is experimental at its core but at the same time moving and fascinating.
The main strength of the play is its cohesion. By cohesion, I mean that all the parts that compose the overall production have worked under a common vision. Every single element spins around the message of the play: the corruption and dehumanisation of the individual. The set and the costumes are white, but they get filthier towards the play advances, representing the psychological state of the home the characters live in. The actors move in abnormal ways, like if they were trying to get rid of their humanity by becoming something else. Even the small details like the trailer that seems more like an experimental movie than an actual trailer; or the program that forces you to open it in different ways and turn it around to read it. Everything has its purpose in this production, and it makes the experience more immersive.
This cohesion results in powerful symbolic scenes where the direction and the physical acting shine the most. The direction is mature and shows a great understanding of Kafka’s original work. The choreographies that the actors perform during the play completely dehumanise their characters. I must praise here the lead actor, who manages to transform his body into a disturbing insectoid mass. His performance indeed gets a little repetitive at some points because of the lack of different registers constant in his inner monologues, but his physicality and performance are just irreplaceable considering how challenging the character is.
The weakest part of the play was, unfortunately, the script. While it was competent, it did not manage to capture some of the essential elements of the novel. The most noticeable was the constant need to explain its themes with dialogues. Some dialogues rub in your face the whole meaning of the play. During the entire show, I could not get rid of the thought that the script was not letting me get my conclusions. This adaptation seems more like an essay on Kafka’s work than a pure recreation of the novel.
However, that doesn’t take any credit away from the production. I came to the theatre with scepticism, praying not to encounter a superficial adaptation of one of my favourite books. What I found was a daring and cohesive experience that had barely any weak points. The experience was so immersive that I think this is the closest that I would ever be to live inside the pages of Metamorphosis. Because when I read the novel, I feel the same way that I felt on the seat of that dark room.