KAFKAESQUE – (adjective) – Characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive, nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world; blending the absurd, surreal and mundane.
In Franz Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Having to exist in a society that is horrified by his physical mutation, scorned and despised by his own family, Kafka’s story is still remains relevant one hundred years on.
People still face judgement, rejection, and hatred, for not conforming to societal norms. In today’s world, with rising numbers of hate crimes, we can still learn an important lesson from Kafka’s story, about creating a more tolerant, inclusive society.
Part of the Incoming Festival at Manchester’s HOME, Collide Theatre bring Emily Louizou‘s adaptation of Kafka’s disturbing book to the stage. Combining dance and theatre, this is not a play about a man turning into a giant insect, but a piece about a family rejecting their own child.
“It was the commandment of the family duty to swallow their disgust and endure him. Endure him, and nothing more”. Franz Kafka – Metamorphosis.
The power of this piece lies in the fact that Gregor Samsa remains unseen throughout. Instead, five actors relay the story’s narrative, playing multiple roles. Whenever they speak his dialogue, or articulate his thoughts, the ensemble speak them all at the same time. This is instantly unnerving, vocally reflecting Gregor’s alien, “repulsive shape”.
All interaction with Gregor is directed at the audience, which places us squarely in his position. A box is drawn on the floor at the front of the stage to indicate the entrance to Samsa’s bedroom, a space the audience inhabits. We become Gregor Samsa. We become detested and abhorred.
Putting the audience in Samsa’s perspective allows us to feel pathos for a creature that never appears on stage. Putting us into the mind of the character, we experience rejection and hatred directed towards Gregor. It is an ingenious concept that elicits sympathy, but also invites inward reflection of our own tolerance towards others. This is provocative theatre, that encourages us to ask ourselves whether we are tolerant of those who are different, or whether we are like Gregor’s family.
Choreographed by Loli Filippakopoulou, the dance segments of Metamorphosis perfectly reflect the horror and surrealism of Kafka’s story. In a warped version of reality, daily tasks are repeated, indicating the mundanity of life over a passage of time. We observe Gregor’s family continue life as normal, despite the extraordinary occurrence within the flat.
Floors are being mopped, newspapers read, the fridge is visited, drinks are poured, milk is put on the floor for Gregor. Like Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, these mundane activities become distorted over time. Make-up becomes smeared, drinks overflow, spilt over the floor. These dance pieces are as disturbing as the musical score that accompanies them.
David Denyer‘s thrilling music composition is suspenseful and dramatic, with a resonance similar to Hans Zimmer. Denyer’s magnificent score builds tension, and contains a subtle distortion that brilliantly captures the surrealism of Kafka’s book. Like the dance pieces, this helps to create an unnerving piece of theatre, that has a profound, science-fiction quality to it.
Collide Theatre have created Kafkaesque theatre through the ingenious use of perspective, a fantastic score and superb dance choreography. Metamorphosis is a provocative performance that is both thought-provoking and precisely executed.