Friday, 25 January 2013

Metamorphosis - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
Lyric Hammersmith, London
Was Peen keen? 

We can argue that this isn’t one of the best plays ever written and it’s probably not an uncommon thought. But Vesturport Production have put together this stunning show to tour the world with, and have done so with courage, sheer talent and passion – all to much deserved rapturous applause as well. It’s a fantastic tale of a heart-breaking way to deal with the family breadwinner turning into a bug.

Photo: Alastair Muir
The whole cast is pretty much faultless: Gísli Örn Garoarsson as Gregor Samsa tells the sensational story of becoming vermin overnight with sensitivity and perfect physicality. With the essential aid of the brilliant set design (Börkur Jónsson), he is able to manipulate the whole house to suit his needs. The grotesque transformation of the young salesman in this version is different to that originally written, and much more ambiguous. There is no reference to Gregor having turned into a bug per se; rather the reaction from the Samsa’s makes us think he is something of an incoherent monstrosity, as he crawls around the walls and ceilings. The lack of communication between Gregor and the rest of his family cuts deep, and makes us equally frustrated. Garoarsson was made for this role.

The rest of the family, in particular Greta Samsa (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir) and Lucy Samsa (Kelly Hunter) represent the turmoil and difficulties that this typical kind of Kafka situation can bring about. The family is headed for very difficult financial times, and it’s far from their biggest worry. Herr Fischer (played superbly by Jonathan McGuinness) arrives as a potential lodger with the family, bringing hope and a barrel of laughs until the obvious is discovered, and he doesn’t take well to the parasite.

As sadistic as it may sound, one of the lovely things is that not everything goes right: it’s a tearjerker. It also allows us to laugh at things that we probably wouldn’t usually laugh at and that actually, if you ponder upon them for a mere couple of seconds, are somewhat disturbing. It’s a time of change for the Samsa's, which comes with the loss of a loved one. Perhaps in previous times this has been a story to scare its audiences, but this version has a bigger picture to paint which concerns a family falling apart with the strangest of causes: it's delivered with great poignancy. The score underneath by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis not only glides wonderfully with the whole thing, but also makes for one beautifully enchanting opening scene.

The Lyric Hammersmith is on fire at the moment (not literally, metaphorically, and in a very good way), and it’s a blessing that this emotionally arresting production has returned for a short while. 

This production runs until 16 February 2013. 
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