Impressions of : "The Metamorphosis" - A Royal Ballet Production

Impressions of : "The Metamorphosis" - A Royal Ballet Production
Henning Rübsam

By Henning Rübsam
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Published on September 22, 2013
Photo by Danielle McGarry.

Kafka's Nightmarish Story Comes to Life at The Joyce

The Metamorphosis - A Royal Ballet Production at The Joyce Theater
September 18, 2013
Production runs September 17 – 29
For ticket information, click HERE.


Henning Rübsam for The Dance Enthusiast


Author, Franz Kafka, penned nightmarish stories of psychological depth and anguish. A trained lawyer who worked for insurance companies, he felt trapped by his day job since he could not devote all of his time to his writing. In his Metamorphosis, a young man, similarly trapped in his daily work routine awakes one morning as a giant insect.

Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa and Nina Goldman as Mrs Samsa in The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle. McGarry.
Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa and Nina Goldman as Mrs Samsa in The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.

In the recent movement theater adaptation by Arthur Pita, the protagonist of the story is the spectacular Edward Watson. It is a star turn for this celebrated Royal Ballet principal, which earned him last year’s Olivier Award in London. Another star had chosen The Metamorphosis as his foray into Broadway theater almost a quarter century before: Mikhail Baryshnikov. But in this new version, originally presented by the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre, the focus was on movement and gave Watson the opportunity to display his incredible ability to twist, knot and contort his body while transforming from Kafka’s anti-hero Gregor Samsa into a creature in front of our very eyes.

The repetitive grind of Gregor’s life, as a man in a suit is not inspiring. He lives with his parents and his sister Grete in a house (designed by Simon Daw) represented to great effect by two stark white rooms- one his bedroom, the other the family’s “live-in” kitchen. Gregor’s room transforms with him turning into a dark and slimy hell. Other bugs (as far as I remember not part of Kafka’s original story) appear one night and soil the place in a dirty dance with Watson. Throughout the performance Watson’s writhing smears the sticky brown mess all over the place. Luckily, there is no smell.

Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle. McGarry.
Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa  The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.

His family copes with Gregor’s transformation in different ways allowing for a psychological profile of each member. The younger sister Grete, portrayed by wonderful Corey Annand as an aspiring dancer, dares to be first to enter Gregor’s room. In a touching duet, she tries to untangle his limbs and get him to stand upright to assume human form again. Later in the production, she is frustrated and yells at her bug brother because he entered the family room scaring off the lodgers the family was forced to take in after losing Gregor’s income.

The three lodgers had happily engaged with the family by dancing to Klezmer music. While this merry interlude is short-lived, the dread the family feels is constant.

Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.
Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa  The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.

The mother (Nina Goldman) simply cannot deal with her son’s “otherness” and when pushed by her daughter to interact with Gregor, she faints at his sight. The pas de deux between bug and his unconscious mother is less effective, but for once brings the father (Anton Skrzypiciel) out of his reserve and indifference.

The maid (Bettina Carpi, an engaging actress, who takes on multiple roles in this production) has a job to do and is the only one who handles abnormal Gregor with any kind of normalcy. She is the one who leaves a window open and allows for his escape.

Watson’s tour de force performance is matched by composer/musician Frank Moon, who plays as many instruments as Watson seems to have tentacles.

Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.
Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa  The Metamorphosis. Photo by Danielle McGarry.

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