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Metamorphosis | Liverpool Playhouse

Every carefully choreographed movement has a purpose in Frantic Assembly’s Metamorphosis.

Lemn Sissay’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella is lovingly crafted and its text full to the brim with modern-day mantras and other playful choices. The original text tells the story of Gregor, a man who wakes one day to find he has turned into a giant insect, though I believe the intention of this adaptation is to let the audience interpret Gregor’s change in a way they deem fit. It comes as no surprise to me that Sissay is behind this interpretation, having experienced his wonderful poetry plastered all over the walls of my local theatre, Storyhouse in Chester.

The poetic nature worked and didn’t in equal measure – occasionally the audience had to rely on other aspects of the production to provide the necessary dramatic tension. Despite this and my unfamiliarity with Kafka’s original text, I found myself more often than not entirely engrossed in the narrative. This is the beauty of a Frantic Assembly piece. Every aspect works together to provide the audience with an evening of total escape.

As expected the atmosphere is set from the moment we enter the auditorium. Chilling music underscores the excited audience chatter as we’re faced with Jon Bausor’s imposing, angular set. Any illusion that this impressive set would remain stationary are deceiving as, further into the story, Bausor’s set design takes this piece to the next level.

Felipe Pacheco leads the cast of five with a tour-de-force performance as Gregor. His impressive physicality was the real highlight of this production. Writhing around the entire set, audibly convulsing, embodying the monster to often repellent and chilling effect.

Supporting Pacheco with stellar performances are Hannah Sinclair Robinson as Gregor’s sweet adolescent sister, Grete, and Troy Glasgow and Louise Mai Newberry as Gregor’s lazy and exploitative parents. Multi-rolling and providing some much-needed comedic relief was Joe Layton as Chief Clerk/Lodger.

Last time I saw a piece Scott Graham directed, the man himself had to step-in, script in hand, to perform the lead part due to cast sickness. He’ll be glad that the same fate did not await him this time around. Graham’s attention to detail is well-known in the theatre world and this production was no exception. Beautifully choreographed monologues were interspersed with intuitive moments where the technical aspects took over, all helping to drive the story forward.

Composer Stefan Janik does a terrific job with the underscoring and though I seldom enjoy a cast being given no amplification when music is used so heavily, fortunately here we have an exception thanks to masterful projection by the cast.

In the absence of any obvious or recognisable costuming to depict Gregor’s change, simple technical effects help lift the story, particular lighting design by Simisola Majekodunmi and video design by Ian William Galloway.

Metamorphosis plays at Liverpool Playhouse until 21st October before continuing on its tour until March 2024. More information and tickets are available here.


{PR Invite} Written by Luke | Photography by Tristram Kenton 


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