An increasing volume of pulsing, slightly discordant music filled the auditorium as the audience took their seats whilst the curtains were open to the set designed by John Bowser. Having visited the Franz Kafka museum in Prague, I was prepared to be slightly unsettled.
The stark bedroom, raised on castors, moved in slight rotation with angled walls, no right angles, felt slightly off-beam, slightly disturbing. Old European adverts and images flashed up on the walls, a time-travelling techgnosis.
Lemn Sissay took inspiration for his script of Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis from his experience of growing up in care, helping him to define the familial roles.
Gregor was adopted as a baby, taken from a life of begging on the street with his mother to performing mind-numbing work at the behest of his now in reduced circumstances adoptive family, for an exploitative employer and fulfilling a role the patriarch was now unable to. Begging and serving – two sides of the same coin.
When Gregor’s adopted sister kisses him he is triggered into his metamorphosis, cocooned in his bedroom and literally climbing the walls. The kiss is a catalyst, a marker taking Gregor from his automatonic, family routine of day to day function into transition.
With strong physicality, the characters almost dance as they move in time with and against each other. Gregor is acrobatic, swinging from the bedroom light and hanging upside down from the picture rail with an ease defying the strength he needed to perform.
The cocoon is a madness, an externalism of internalised stress from which Gregor, eventually, emerges.