|Edward Watson in The Metamorphosis|
Photo: Tristram Kenton, courtesy of ROH
The Metamorphosis is such an overwhelming piece of theatre that two people walked out on the night I saw it. With Edward Watson and the stage covered in 10 litres of (black vomit) treacle, Arthur Pita's choreography explores the notion of conformity and what happens when character Gregor Samsa changes overnight into a creature described in Franz Kafka’s original novella as ‘monstrous vermin'.
Watson's movement quality is astounding; he walks on his knees, wiggling his toes and contorting his spine. But what I loved most about the work were the diverse reactions from Samsa's family. Sister Grete helplessly absorbs Samsa's movement patterns, with bizarre twitches interrupting her training as a ballet dancer. The maid shouts at him and pushes him away with a mop, whilst Samsa's mother refuses even to enter his room.
The family struggle on, attempting normality as the bug-like Watson scuttles and slides around his lair. Whilst the transformation is clearly physical, the repercussions make it feel like Samsa has gone mad and is being abandoned by his relatives, unable to handle this deviation from normality.
The Metamorphosis is utterly captivating, poignant and beautiful. It is rare to find a work that is so incredible in its power, but this certainly is.