Metamorphosis-Review-Dublin Theatre Festival (Olympia Theatre Monday 29th September)

At one point, about ten minutes into last night’s performance of Metamorphosis, the audience had a mild and satisfied smile to itself. The smile was induced by the slow realisation that the stage had been transformed. Having looked upon Gregor’s room pinned against a wall, we were suddenly, through a trick of light and brilliant set design, gazing into his room from above.


It was an amazingly clever piece of trickery and one that certainly gave the performance some oomph. As we followed Gregor(Gisli Orn Gardarsson) who, having been transformed inexplicably into a beetle of some sort, had to crawl his way around the house; his family’s life gradually continues in the kitchen under his room. Although his adoring sister Grete initially tries to take care of her brother her parents are not interested. Gradually, Grete herself begins to shun Gregor, treating him more and more like an animal than a beloved brother. Throughout, Gregor tries to communicate with his family for whom he was the sole breadwinner but his voice has been transformed into a loud and incomprehensible screech.


Over the course of the play, the family’s former hero is dehumanised and becomes referred to as vermin and disgusting. The Nazi overtones are striking and clever. When Gregor’s father, played here by the somewhat shaky (opening night nerves I suspect) Ingvar E Sigurdsson, finds a new job, which involves the wearing of a uniform, the family begin to change. The mother’s former floral attire is replaced with black clothing but most strikingly Grete’s caring and sunny demeanour is replaced by strict respect and punctuality, her innocent school uniform by a sharp grey suit and black leather boots.


When a potential lodger, a well to do and handsome man played by Jonathan McGuinness, comes to inspect his would be lodgings the family are beside themselves with admiration. Gregor interrupts them by crashing through the ceiling and the horrified lodger bolts out the door while expressing his disgust. The family draw the only conclusion possible and encouraged by the now frustrated Grete, Gregor’s fate is sealed.


 The star of this show, with Grete a close second, was the physically impressive Gardarsson. Although he did have a nice rest for approximately ten minutes during which the family try to sycophantically impress their would be lodger, he spent most of the play hanging from the wall, crawling down stairs or being thumped on the head. Throughout all this suffering he managed to keep the soft and sympathetically selfless character of Gregor alive. Perhaps his role as an actor was not as tough as the rest of the cast but he played to his strengths making his ending all the more potent.


This is not a word for word adaption of Kafka’s story but it is well done and stays true to the story’s main themes. And for the set and Gardarsson’s performance it is definitely worth seeing.

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