Berkoff’s landmark play Metamorphosis, adapted from Kafka’s Novella, is a play that seems remarkably modern in tone and subject matter. It’s hard to believe it was first performed in 1969. The reason it appears contemporary I believe is because it is such an ensemble piece of theatre and therefore seems far more European than English in style.
As Berkoff has pointed out, there has long been a resistance in physical theatre and ensemble work… largely because “you have to be fond of experimenting (in ensemble work) since in means you desire to merge with your group”. In English Theatre the emphasis has always been on “stars” and solo performance (nowhere is this more evident than in the West End at present).
There is also been a reliance on naturalism since the 1890’s with the popularity of Stanislavskian methods, and with the rise of film as a popular art form these methods have become ingrained.
One of the many interesting challenges for the actors was the starkness of the setting and also the cross gender casting.
Gregor’s plight is often seen as a metaphor for Berkoff’s own feelings of victimisation, as an outsider, working class and Jewish, but I believe in this consumer and celebrity obsessed society where people are described as “cash rich and time poor” and desire lifestyles not lives, there is a little bit of Gregor lurking in all of us.
Artwork and photography
By Steven Berkoff
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