Kafka’s most famous story of a man who inexplicably finds himself transformed into a beetle gets a fresh adaptation from Bath-based company Beyond the Horizon.
Adam Lloyd-James had grown tired of the lack of creative control he had in the productions he was involved in as an actor. Out of this frustration came his company Beyond the Horizon, formed in 2015. It’s mission: to present audiences with a brand of live entertainment beyond what they usually see; something Metamorphosis definitely achieves.
Franz Kafka’s classic play is somewhat of a dark fairy-tale, as we follow the story of Gregor Samsa, an ordinary salesman, who wakes one morning to find he has been cursed with some unknown affliction. As Gregor’s condition gets worse, we see him begin to lose his humanity and isolate himself, and the burdening effect this has on both himself and his family.
With just a small number of five, making up the family and various colourful characters, the cast brings a great energy to the stage, along with experiments in voiceover and lighting and sound that seems the team are always trying to give the audience something new to engage with. Special mention to Lloyd-James as Gregor, who clearly has a lot of love for the story and the role, as is visible watching him perform as he throws himself in head-first. It is he, along with Ellie Ekers, playing sister Grete, that give us the emotional crux of the narrative. Just when you think there might be some hope for Gregor and his family, the story takes another turn into misery.
The stand-out feature of the piece is without a doubt the makeup design by Sarah Luscombe. Luscombe has worked with a vast amount of companies throughout film, television and theatre, and with this show was tasked with designing Gregor’s transformation into the beetle. Each time Gregor appears, we are treated to an even more gruesome addition to the prosthetics and makeup, as his skin begins to peel and he is covered in a slime-like substance. Luscombe’s work really helps to sell the key points of the story; the disgust of the rest of the family and Gregor’s sense of alienation. Lloyd-James said, “Kafka’s Metamorphosis has always been a personal favourite of mine, and it’s particularly relevant these days with mental health issues on the rise. Sarah’s makeup just adds a whole new dimension to it all. The makeup is terrifying. The story is superb.”
This production takes a century-old play and completely re-invents it for a modern audience, transforming it into unlike anything you’ve seen before. I was mesmerised, and it’s something that any theatre lover would thoroughly enjoy.
Metamorphosis is showing at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham until 2 March.
Review by Liam Tipper