I decided to end my college career exploring what only the University of Illinois could provide: an experience exploring the culture and arts of the University’s feature facilities like the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Spurlock Museum. I lamented being cut short of the fun times I was having, but I am happy I got to take part. Dr. Collins and Dr. Robinson provided a course that broadened my horizons, taking me to performances I may not have otherwise. This stayed true into the pandemic as I was directed to online performances to compliment my education. My classmates were friendly and fun. My brief encounters with them are ones I treasure immensely and some of what I miss the most in this isolation we all suffer through today.
“Steven Berkoff’s iconic adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novella, which tells the tale of a travelling salesman who is transformed into an insect, is brought to life in this highly physical and visually striking production. Captured live at the Parco Theater in Tokyo, this landmark performance is in Japanese with English subtitles.” —– Steven Berkoff
Hello and thank you for coming back once again! Not being able to visit the theaters in person hasn’t kept us from continuing our theatrical exploration! Using UIUC’s digital theater, I was able to enjoy Steven Berkoff’s Metamorphosis, an adaptation of a Franz Kafka novella. In this production a young man finds himself transformed into a repulsive, human-sized bug as he’s forced to suffer in a dark, cramped room for the rest of his existence.
The set and props were incredibly simple, with only three stools and and a raised platform with climbing bars perched to it. Although the set was incredibly minimalistic, the use of lighting, slow-motion, etc., allowed the scenes to flow properly and conveyed the passing of time. The actor who played Gregor, the man-bug, really astonished me in his performance. The entire production hinged on having an amazing performer be Gregor as his voice is so critical to the entire mood and tension of the show. All of this is not to mention that as well as giving a dazzling performance, we all know he got an even better leg workout while he was cramped up as a dung beetle!
Thank you so much, once again, for stopping by! Please check back soon as I will be visiting one of the Shakespeare classics on the Digital Theater.
Link to performance: https://www-digitaltheatreplus-com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/education/collections/east-productions/metamorphosis
Metamorphosis is an ironic adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel directed by Steven Berkoff. It depicts a fantastic tale that a salesman turned into a bug one day, and his life is changed dramatically.
Written by Bingchen Li
“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug” is the opening sentence from Franz Kafka’s masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. The director Steven Berkoff is a good storyteller that he successfully transforms the original into a show. As the curtain rises at the very beginning of the play, the whole stage is showed to the audience directly. There is only a framed structure at the center and 3 actors sit on the chairs. Those are all props used in the play. The main character is Gregor Samsa, a salesman who needs to travel a lot and around the nation to get more orders. He lives with his parents and his little sister, Greta. After a long day of hardworking, as usual, Gregor felt uncomfortable and went to the bed. However, when he waked up, he found that he turned into a bug. His life dramatically changed because of the metamorphosis.
Audiences could know the background from the beginning of the play that the Samsa family’s living expenses rely on Gregor’s work. Gregor needs to work hard to feed his families, such as his father’s cigar, his mother’s clothes, and his sister’s violin classes. Gregor does not show up for breakfast and late for work because he turns into a bug. We can notice that when Chief Clerk comes to his home, his parents and sister treat Chief like he is the dearest guest. It all because Gregor’s salary is the only income for his family, and that is why his boss is so arrogant.
In addition, people’s attitudes are other details that we should pay attention to. Before his transformation, his father is proud of his son, and his sister thinks he is the best brother in the world. Gregor’s boss treats him like cattle. However, after his transformation, people’s attitudes changed hugely. His father hits Gregor by an apple. His mother does not want to feed him and is fear to face him. Greta loved his brother at the beginning, but when she found Gregor was worthless to her, she suggested her parents expel Gregor. The reason behind the attitude changing is the Samsa family and his boss only care about their own benefit so that ignore the sympathy and relationship between people.
Compare to watch the play in person, I prefer a recorded online performance. Audiences could notice more details through close-ups, such as facial expressions and body language. Gregor’s fingers trembled just like antennas of an insect. There are no props in the show but three chairs, so actors pretend their hands are forks and knives to eat. In addition, Gregor’s room is a framed structure, or from my perspective, more like a cage. It is a metaphor to express Gregor’s life. Before the transformation, he worked to feed his family. He was chained by the family. After becoming a bug, he was locked in the room, waiting to be fed.
All in all, this is a really impressive performance, I highly recommend you to watch it during the time the whole world turned upside down. Be safe!
Metamorphosis is a theatrical production based on a novella of the same name written by Franz Kafka. It tells a bizarre story which was about a salesman who was transformed into a huge insect and his struggles to adjust to the new conditions. The production was directed by Steven Berkoff and was captured live at the Parco Theatre in Tokyo. I watched this with English subtitles on the Digital Theatre Plus.
Metamorphosis, a production based on Franz Kafka’s novella, was performed at the Parco Theater in Tokyo and made available with English subtitles through Digital Theatre Plus.
Written by Willa Wu
The adaptation of this production, Steven Berkoff’s, retells the story of a travelling salesman who is somehow transformed into an insect. Throughout this play, he follows a uniformed style and design and utilizes the actors and actresses in unique and extensive ways.
Having never read Kaftka’s novella prior to watching this production, my reaction during most of the play was that it was strange. The storyline begins with Gregor Samsa giving an extremely direct exposition, explaining exactly who he is, who each of the other actors are, and their situation. I quite enjoyed this style of storytelling, as I commonly find myself trying to piece together the knowledge during the story rather than already knowing the backstory.
The element of design within this production was phenomenal. Berkoff used a very easy to understand minimalistic set of props to progress the story, and the actors were able to use their body language to help the audience understand the implications of the prop placements. Like Cabaret, the actor’s consistent use of props helped me understand the story more easily. The entire set only consisted of a framed structure and three chairs placed evenly apart across the stage. In addition, the minimalist structure extended to encompass the number of actors. There were four main actors (Gregor, Greta, and the parents), and the Chief who came around in select scenes. I appreciated this style, as I felt as if it was more storytelling, which in some cases can be more entertaining to watch.
The use of shadows was also important within this play. With small tweaks in lighting, the actors themselves can look like shadows or the actors can create large shadows behind them. This can be used to have the actor appear either extremely large or extremely small in comparison to some other object or another actor. The actors all wore monochromatic clothing, and hence, with the shadows they create, make the entire play fit in further with the minimalistic look. The only deviation from such is when there is an angry scene, and a red light would cast upon the entire stage.
It was imperative that this production was to be watched online, as it was recorded in Japanese. However, if I were to somehow be able to watch this in person, it would look less dynamic to me. This is because as a live audience member, you are subjected only to a wide angle view of the entire stage the entire run time. However, in the style that this production was recorded, there were rotating camera angles that were used and also close ups of the actors. By doing so, it creates a more dynamic flow to the production as angles are always changing. In my opinion, the experience of watching it online feels more like a movie rather than a play.
My favorite design element is the use of the clock noises to tell time. In this play, unlike many other performances we have seen this semester, the actors do not only depend on themselves to create sound. It was most noticeable when Gregor’s every step once he became an insect was followed by a sound mimicking the sound of an insect. The precision that is required of the actors is incredible and impressive.