MU Modern Theatre’s production of The Metamorphosis is a muddled, murky, melange of a show. A new adaptation by playwright James Macaronas and directed by Samsara Dunston, its presentation is tepid at best and any themes are as illuminated as the dingy lighting insisted on throughout.
The reimagined dialogue is predominantly built from an English translation, with occasional fragments of the original German (in part a nice acknowledgement of the difficulty in translating Kafka’s novella), as well as lines from outside texts, such as Nabokov’s Lolita, among others.
The main departure appears to be the fact that we never see the lead character of Gregor Samsa, only hear him and his insect brethren (the audience have already endured some of these creatures clawing and clicking in the fully-lit bustle of the common area outside the Guild Theatre), particularly when they devour anyone that gets too close.
The writing, staging, and direction attempt to take Samsa’s internal torment and anxieties from the source material and manifest them outward in creating an atmosphere of horror. Some of these elements work, such as the constant low drone running under everything, or the partial visions of Gregor behind a haphazard barrier.
Unfortunately though, we also have too much of everything else. Too many performances reached a peak volume and just stayed there (or in the case of the character of the Exterminator, multiple sudden shifts between shouting and menace), which quickly become uninteresting.
While some of the less declamatory actors did well, they were hamstrung by the requirement to attempt a German accent. Admittedly, some scenes found a measure of tension and suspense, but all too often you found yourself preferring to watch the supertitles instead, yearning to be stirred by show trying to be nightmarish, yet only able to muster the qualities of a mere uneasy dream.
Guild Theatre – Union House, University of Melbourne, Parkville
Performance: Thursday 26 September 2019 – 8.15pm
Image: Metamorphosis (sourced)
Review: David Collins