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Saturday, March 17, 2018


(Asanda Ngcobo, Neo Gumede & Anja Dippenaar)
The Theatre-St Anne’s College presents Metamorphosis by Steven Berkoff, based on the novella by Franz Kafka. Directed by Lynn Chemaly, performances will take place from March 19 to 22.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams…

He found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect…”

Metamorphosis is produced by The Theatre-St Anne’s College as their 2018 Major Production, directed by Lynn Chemaly. The production is highly stylised and theatrical and serves as an excellent example of 20th century Absurdist theatre in content, style and form. Berkoff injects the script with both bizarre and comic elements, resulting in an entertaining production.

Existentialist writer, Franz Kafka’s novella, Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) was first published in 1915. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers, and explores themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt and absurdity. Re-interpreted in 1972 by playwright, Steven Berkoff, Metamorphosis expresses certain basic conflicts in the human condition: What is real and what is fantasy? How can we exist in the inflexible, bureaucratic structures of employment and mundane daily life? How do we fit into our family, our community, and the world? Why do we feel isolated and dis-connected from others? What is the ultimate freedom from human suffering?

At a time when connectedness has never been more prevalent in our global community, via mass communication and driven by technology, we appear more dis-connected than ever before. Differences of race, class, culture, language and gender have never been more high profile, and seemingly acceptable, and yet remain the sources of our greatest fear, anxiety and conflict. Perhaps our greatest contemporary fear is that of the ‘other’? Twenty first century society propels the notion of choice, freedom of speech and democracy, where individualism is made to appear desirable and powerful. Yet, in amongst all this apparent freedom, never have people been more easily manipulated, channelled, segregated and controlled into rigid patterns of living, acting, thinking and behaving.

So when Gregor Samsa transforms overnight into a giant insect, how do his family, employers and society at large deal with his transformation? It is an absurd situation, quite ridiculous, in fact, yet it directly challenges essential aspects of human nature, in particular, fear of the ‘other’. The day to day existence of Gregor Samsa, the income generator, the good son and big brother, is turned on its head when he becomes a giant, dysfunctional insect. He is grossly repulsive in form and requires different food and care. He can understand what is being said, but is unable to speak, and so cannot communicate his feelings or needs. He is helpless, revolting, and completely isolated, yet he is still Gregor Samsa inside his insect body. He still sees, hears, feels and thinks. It reflects on how contemporary society deals with similar situations of ‘other’, such as the aged, HIV/Aids infected peoples, and mentally and physically handicapped people.

So how do humans free themselves from this isolation? The existentialists promote death as the ultimate freedom, death as painless non-existence; a dark and endless sleep. But does death free Gregor Samsa from his own suffering? Rather, his death serves to free up his family and the society, enabling them to go back to how things were, before they had to face the challenges of his ‘metamorphosis’; of his being ‘other’.

Metamorphosis runs in The Theatre at St Anne’s Diocesan College, Hilton, from March 19 to 22 at 19h30. Tickets R50 booked on 033 343 6100 or