Metamorphosis: A Commentary on the Working Class

Metamorphosis is a play that is adapted from a novel by Franz Kafka. It was adapted by Steven Berkoff who also directed the production that I watched on Digital Theatre +. This version was performed by the Parco Theatre in Tokyo, Japan.

By Elena Grantcharski

The plot is about a salesman named Gregor who works very hard every day to support his family. From the very first scene, we learn that his job is very strict. He has to take a 5am train to work because if he is late he will be fired. On the next day, Gregor turns into an insect. He can hear his family trying to wake him up, he can understand them, but he cannot do anything to reply because he literally became an insect. The actor’s use of the body here was really impressive. He did not wear a costume of an insect. Instead, he contorted his body and made bug-like motions which were very effective in creeping me out but also impressed me on actually how much he looked at a bug at some points. While he struggles with his new reality, his boss comes to his home and interrogates his parents and sister on his absence, showing how absorbed Gregor’s life was by his job. 

An example of how the actor contorted his body to look like an insect.

I can admit that I have never watched such an abstract theatre production before. I felt very unsettled the entire time, but not  in a bad way. Everything in this play was so abstract. The stage was very simple but also creepy at the same time. The costume, hair, and makeup were also very simple and creepy. There were not any props besides the wooden planks and stools on the stage. The actors had to use only their own bodies to portray the entire story. For example, when the family was eating dinner at the beginning, they did not have actual food in front of them, nor did they have any silverware. They used their hands and mouths to imitate the actions of eating. There were also really interesting uses of shadows from the stage props which complemented the mood of the certain scene. 

An example of how the stage props and light were used to create shadows for effect.

I think this play is a commentary on the working class because it shows how much Gregor’s family struggled with him not being able to work. His mother and sister tried to help him, while his father was freaked out by him but throughout the play you could also see how they were worried because Gregor no longer had his job. Also the fact that Gregor turned into a bug was very symbolic in my opinion; an overworked and underpaid worker like Gregor is probably nothing but a bug that can be squashed by those he works for. 

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