META, the final installment of the 2014 Helium season, explores Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis – the famous tale of a man who wakes up one morning to discover he has turned into a repulsive insect.
Malthouse Theatre Associate Producer Josh Wright spoke to META director Samara Hersch.
What is it about this absurd story of a young man who wakes up as an insect that makes it so poignant for over a century?
For me, Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis speaks to the process of Othering. At the start of Kafka’s story Gregor is changed. His change is never explained or justified. It is accepted – and from there, in a way the greater tragedy begins.
This tragedy lies in the metamorphosis of Gregor’s family who in my opinion become a microcosm for society – both in Kafka’s time and now.
Our approach to this text, through META, has thus been to place the family in the spotlight. Gregor remains somewhat familiar to us – he is not an actor portraying a gruesome insect, but a man stripped of his dignity and the altering gaze of the family is what slowly turns him into something unbearable.
Despite the inherent darkness in Kafka’s text we have had a lot of fun stepping into the Samsa family’s world. There’s something simultaneously surreal and familiar about these people. Mother, Father and Grete each endure various stages of grieving in response to Gregor’s transformation. Each individual has their own personal journey including, denial, resentment, violence and empowerment. All of these responses are what make the story so astounding. They force us to examine how the Samsa family, or society at large, deal with our most vulnerable, questioning the limits of unconditional love.
Our response to this ambiguity of what Gregor actually becomes is to see him as someone who suddenly lacks recognition and value. From once having a place in the Samsa home and in society, Gregor becomes displaced, hideous, physically trapped and futile.
This story therefore forces us to interrogate what it means to suddenly become frighteningly unfamiliar; to be unexpectedly objectified and rejected; to no longer exist within the family.
Photography / Bek Berger
META plays in the Tower Theatre 22 October to 12 November.
META has been conceived and directed by Samara Hersch (NOA, Super) with cast members Liz Jones, John Flaus, Josh Ferenbach, Aaron Orzech and Mary Helen Sassman, as well as collaborators Bek Berger, Romanie Harper, James Paul, Amelia Lever-Davidson, Ainsley Kerr and David Woods.