Even if you have never read Kafka’s best known literary work, Metamorphosis, the basic premise of man turns into insect is easy enough to understand, if not to fully comprehend. But what of those who watched the transformation? Greta turns the handle on the door to her brother Gregor’s room and catalyses a transformation all of her own. It is the story of Greta’s maturation and transformation from child to adult that Different Theatre choose to focus in on, in this new version by Sam Chittenden.
The tale is old but the voice of Greta through Chittenden’s script is fresh and highly self-aware. The adult Greta unfolds her story with vivid imagery and a wealth of emotion, aided by slipping back into young Greta’s first person perspective which keeps the audience at the heart of the action. It allows post-transformation Greta the scope to muse on her past decisions which is structurally highly satisfying.
In a highly bold move, some of Kafka’s decisions in his original text are held to account. Why did he choose to draw our attention to any change in Greta, only after Gregor’s death? To see Greta turn against her own creator is fascinating but could be messy in the hand of an inexperienced writer, fortunately Chittenden handles this deftly and it adds a new dimension that sets this new version apart.
The text is threaded with insects, in a style that is both poetic and diligent. Greta’s parents are the “lazy parasites” of the story through her eyes, the legs of the ghetto children are vulnerably “beetle thin” and she also refers to herself emerging from a cocoon, like a butterfly perhaps unlike her ‘vermin’ brother. The language of Gregor’s repulsive transformation has infiltrated Greta’s own mind.
Heather-Rose Andrews’s performance is at once , perhaps more so for the small, dark space of Sweet Grassmarket 4 which focusses the attention to a point. There is no corner to scuttle into to hide from those intense and earnest eyes. Every word is articulated clearly so nothing is missed and she moves well. At one point she lies like an overturned beetle on her back, all splayed and angular limbs. She is vulnerable, too.
The space is bare but for a spindly brown coat stand, lingering in the corner. It is a shadowy reminder of Gregor’s presence looming large in the story, even though it is no longer his to tell.
The lighting design is sensitive to Greta’s feelings; it glows a haunting blue-green as young Greta recounts her horrors, but her cheeks shine rosy under warm natural light once she has been released from the burden of her family and of Gregor.
A fascinating and captivating insight into Greta, as she steps out of Gregor’s and Kafka’s shadows.