Metamorphosis, by Different Theatre at the Bread and Roses as part of Clapham Fringe

Metamorphosis, the latest offer by writer/director Sam Chittenden of Brighton-based company Different Theatre, is a clever piece of work which re-imagines Kafka’s The Metamorphosis from the point of view of Grete Samsa, sister to the novella’s protagonist Gregor. At its heart it seems to draw from works like Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, itself a re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey: Grete recounts the events of the book and her life, comparing her brothers’ transformation into an insect to her own transformation into womanhood, presented as something equally frightening, not in and of itself, but due to the culture of shaming the female body in the nineteenth century. In doing so it highlights the silencing of female voices throughout western history, astutely drawing a parallel between Gregor’s surreal dehumanization and the historical dehumanization of women perpetuated by patriarchal society. It becomes clear very early on how Grete is also a likely representation of Ottile, Franz’s favourite sister, drawing on their correspondence to inform Grete’s complex relationship and fraught to her brother and family. The piece rightly assumes a political dimension, continuing the story of Grete/Ottile past the death of her brother, ending with her arrival in a concentration camp during World War II, evoking Orson Welles’ adaptation of  The Trial, where protagonist K’s death is portrayed as defiant rather than hopeless, a change Welles made in tribute to the resilience of Jewish People. Special mention must be paid toactor Heather-Rose Andrews, who utilises her commanding voice to maximum effect, modulating it to play a Grete in several stages of her life, as well as a host of other characters. Her dexterity with language and emotion made me wish the piece be made as an audio drama, so I may better concentrate on the words themselves. All in All, Metamorphosis is a powerful and affecting show which, particularly in today’s political climate, deserves a wider audience.

Lorenzo Mason

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