Growing up as a theatre kid, Frantic Assembly has always been my favourite theatre group. When I heard they were doing an adaptation of Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis, I knew I had to see it for myself.
So, I did. On Thursday 26 October, at the Northern Stage in Newcastle upon Tyne. Despite attending a matinee show, I still felt the horror and thrill of an evening performance. So much so, that I was surprised it was still daylight when I exited the theatre.
Whilst I knew expectations were high from Berkoff’s renditions of Kafka’s work – I knew Frantic Assembly could put on a show. And that, they did. The collaboration between Frantic Assembly and poet Lemn Sissay OBE showcased the contemporary dynamic movements at the roots of Frantic Assembly, whilst remaining true to the original tale of Metamorphosis.
Without Sissay’s contributions in writing the script, I am not sure the performance would have been as emotionally thrilling and horrifying. Our story follows Gregor Samsa, breadwinner for his family, who undergoes a quick spiralling deficit resulting in him taking the form of a beetle. Many say his transformation is physical, while others argue psychological, but Frantic Assembly seems to combine both in their production.
Whilst it could be argued the approach taken towards creating the “beetle” was more psychological rather than physical by only using one character overall (strange from Frantic Assembly – since they often use ensemble techniques.) Both elements are utilised to demonstrate painful suffering, through the actor’s bodily movements, moaning wails, and the set design’s hanging ceiling lamp and climbable ceiling.
More is to be said about the set design – the greatest asset to the production, in my opinion. Despite my initial disappointment in expecting to see the “beetle” created by an ensemble group to portray a huge ghastly creature, I was pleasantly surprised with Gregor Samsa’s performance as a one-man beetle.
At first, I thought the set looked rather simple and sparse. But when the characters started moving around the space, and to my surprise – up the walls. All the daring stunts added to the overall thrill and terror of the performance. There is something abnormally off-putting about a man hanging upside down from the ceiling, and not just the physics of it.
Even with my bias towards Frantic Assembly, I still rate this production very highly among the rest of their incredible work. The entire performance was captivating, thrilling, disturbing, and everything you would want from Kafka brought to life.
See Metamorphosis by Frantic Assembly on tour until March 2nd 2024, find your show here.