A darkly comic take on Kafka

 
Steve Dinneen
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THEATRE
THE METAMORPHOSIS
Hammersmith Lyric
****

FRANZ KAFKA’s The Metamorphosis, in which protagonist Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover he has turned into an “Ungeziefer” (usually translated as “beetle”) has variously been interpreted as the most harrowing of autobiographies, a comment on the alienation of modernity and, perhaps most profoundly, the best literary depiction of a hangover (thanks, Kingsly Amis).

In the hands of Gísli Örn Garðarsson – the co-director, writer and star of the show – it is a darkly comic family melodrama, in which the metamorphosis is realised through a gravity-defying performance that sees Samsa literally crawling the walls as he loses touch with the world. It is a bravado performance – at once heartbreaking and physically impressive. Samsa’s grotesque family add a dry humour to what could easily have descended into a grindingly miserable adaptation, and Jonathan McGuinness’s fascistic lodger is deliciously, camply menacing.

The staging is immaculate, warping the physical space of a middle-class family home into a surreal climbing-frame for Samsa’s insecurities to explore.

An original soundtrack composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis completes this brilliantly realised, strangely airy adaptation.