Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. A BBC Cymru Wales production
Lockdown has filled the airwaves of repeats including this gem from 2017: a BBC Cymru Wales production of Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis.
Alan Harris’ take on the story of salesman Gregor’s transformation into a ‘monstrous cockroach’ takes an unusual twist into a kind of nightmare in which the world is peopled by insects but one that makes sense of the trajectory of Kafka’s narrative.
Comic, witty and with creepy sound effects the 50 minute drama is on BBC4 Extra for a few days.
Many interpretations have been made of Kafka’s strangely hypnotic story from the emergence of his sister Grete (Emma Sidi) as a powerful and successful woman to a critique of society creating meaningless low paid jobs for workers who can barely cover their living costs. A monotonous world of routine leading to mental breakdown and a rejection of the norm – as lived by Gregor.
Or it can be seen as a critique of traditional families where the daughter’s musical talent is dismissed by her father as it would cost too much for her to be professionally trained. And due to his business disappointment Gregor’s father becomes a bitter patriarch who expects his son to be the bread winner but gives him no support, while his mother is compliant with her husband’s behaviour.
In this play we get a slightly comic take on Gregor’s mental breakdown that comes to the fore. Put under impossible pressure by his boss at work and his father at home Gregor (Tom Basden) retreats into his bedroom – a metaphor for his mind.
There an enjoyably eccentric scene when Grete takes the six legged Gregor out into the world, managing to get passed the prying neighbours and trying to bring some normality into his life by exposing him to the everyday. Of course it doesn’t work and as time goes by Grete becomes less interested in helping Gregor and more fixated on her future. Kenneth Collard plays Gregor’s father, Felicity Montagu his mum and Tim Key the pest controller – all very good value.
With a cast of Welsh actors and a contemporary feel this version of Kafka’s often discussed story distills all the essential ingredients of the novel into less than an hour’s entertainment that makes you think.