Tag Archives: Steven Berkoff

Metamorphosis: Salesman Turned Insect

Metamorphosis is Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novella, which tells the tale of a travelling salesman who is transformed into an insect. The performance took place in the Parco Theater in Tokyo and was made available through Digital Theatre Plus.

Written By: Zackarya Faci

The first thing that struck me about Metamorphosis is that it was performed in Japanese. The video was accompanied by English subtitles which undoubtedly helped me understand what was going on through the performance. This is the beauty of digital performances; we are able to enjoy works that we might not otherwise comprehend in person. The performance opened with Gregor Samsa elucidating who he was and giving background about the other characters. This is atypical from other performances, and it seemed like he will be narrating the story instead of acting in it.

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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.
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Magic Metamorphosis

by Tyler Tubbs

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: A Story of Bizarreness

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.

The title of the production, including the director and the year of production
A screenshot of the production

Written by: Yushan Guo

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The Strange Story of Metamorphosis

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.

Gregor Samsa, during his transformation to an insect.

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.  

A shot of Gregor Samsa during a monologue.

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.

The final bows of the performers.

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.