Friday 28 June 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Metamorphosis - HOME, Manchester

Collide Theatre’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novella “Metamorphosis” is a dynamic and expressionistic piece of dance theatre, performed by a fresh and youthful ensemble. This evening’s performance was at HOME in Manchester, as part of the Incoming Festival.

Director/dramaturg Emily Louizou and designer Iona Curelea kept the piece in an early twentieth century German setting, and appeared to have been heavily influenced by early German Expressionistic cinema. Everything was in stark black and white; the actors’ haunted faces were pale with heavy dark grey eyeshadow; and there was a lot of slow and sustained movement while the actors looked directly at the audience with faces changing through various stages of anguish. An antique white fridge perched on one side of a bare stage covered in white paper. At times white milk and red wine got poured onto the floor; the mother character Mrs Samsa kept frenetically applying more and more red lipstick over her face; and the final climax was indicated through red liquid blood. This reviewer was in Expressionism ecstasy.

Very interestingly, no actor was playing the protagonist: Gregor Samsa, the very ordinary travelling salesman who wakes up one morning to discover he has been transformed into a large and verminous insect. His bedroom was placed in the audience’s seating area, and when the actors wanted to look at him or refer to him, they were looking directly at us. We were made into an audience of Gregors. This was an uncomfortable scenario, and the Samsa family’s increasing revulsion and rejection of their son and brother became very personalised.

At many points the five performers worked as an integrated ensemble, particularly when performing a sort of agitated insect dance choreographed by Ioli Filippakopoulou that was a recurring motif, or speaking narrative pieces of text in unison or in rapid exchange. But they did break off into individual characters as well. Katharine Hardman was one of the earliest as the infuriated Mrs Manager: arriving to bang on Gregor’s door and find out why he was not at work. As is typical in humorous German theatre, the character was played as an over-the-top caricature, complete with the absurdity of Hardman’s very feminine black skirt suit and long hair coupled with a bowler hat and large, stick-on curling moustache. Hardman twitched, curled her lip, flashed her eyes, and generally milked every small detail possible of crazed petty authority.

As Gregor’s parents, Mr and Mrs Samsa, Joseph Hardy and Jodie Sully were the rather useless yet indignant bourgeois couple who were so utterly inconvenienced at losing their sole breadwinner to this transformation. Sully, teetering around in a dirndl skirt and high heels, was particularly good at this, and managed to almost, but not quite, faint multiple times. Hardy bossily asserted his grey-haired faded-with-age masculinity while regularly retreating behind an increasingly large newspaper - multiple pages had been stuck together, until it was unfolding out into a newspaper the size of a carpet – but he shrank in the presence of the two Gentleman Lodgers.

The Gentleman Lodgers were performed by Katharine Hardman and an equally revelling-in-petty-power Manuela Albrecht. Their physicality as they took full bullying possession of the Samsas’ environment bordered on clowning. Albrecht also played the Samsas’ maid, spending a lot of time mopping floors with an intensely worried look.

Katy Ellis shone as Gregor’s sister Grete. Her soulful, angst-ridden face was often the point of focus on the stage, and the rest of the time she was in a corner somewhere, subliminally adding to the action by wistfully playing a violin. David Denyer’s composing, which also appeared as strident pre-recorded music, was an integral part of this movement-heavy yet text-driven performance.

Reviewer - Thalia Terpsichore
on - 27/6/19

1 comment:

  1. I believe the designer’s name is ‘ioana’ not ‘iona’ 😊