Review: Metamorphosis, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Illustration of drama


Edinburgh  International Festival

First Night Review

Metamorphosis, King’s Theatre

Ends tomorrow


Reviewed by Mark Brown


The great Taiwanese actor and dramatist Wu Hsing-kuo mesmerised Edinburgh International Festival audiences with his solo interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear two years ago.

His return last night, with a one-man show based upon Franz Kafka’s great novella Metamorphosis, brought unexpected drama.

Adapting Kafka’s work in six parts, Wu found himself in trouble during the scene change between parts four and five. While in the character of the beloved sister of the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, the actor was suspended in mid-air, holding onto a painting. As the stage fell dark, he cried out in distress, seemingly entangled in the apparatus, as he was being lowered to the ground. Stagehands came to his aid, and, after a short delay, Wu reappeared, apparently unharmed.

All’s well that ends well, but the actor’s dangerous predicament was not the kind of change he or his audience expected on the opening night of this tale of the desperate Samsa, who awakes to find that he has been transformed into a giant insect.

The show itself (which overran its advertised duration by some 40 minutes) will disappoint anyone who is hoping for a deeply philosophical consideration of this most existentialist of fictions.

The actor-director approaches the piece in a very literal fashion; concentrating primarily upon Samsa’s physical situation, with the assistance of a superb costume (complete with a turtle back and long, feather antennae).

The actor’s renowned skill in movement, combined with beautiful live music, creates moments of great spectacle; even if there is an over-reliance upon projected images and film.

However, the illustration of Kafka’s novella with songs (such as one about romantic love ascribed to Samsa’s sister) which are inappropriate to the story merely reinforces the sense that, in contrast to Wu’s Lear, this is an adaptation which misses the essence of the work from which it comes.


This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on August 11, 2013

© Mark Brown


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