23/03/2023 - 28/03/2023
By Franz Kafka, adapted by Kerry Frampton
Presented by Piece of Work Productions (Nelson)
Directed by Anton Bentley
Piece of Work Productions (Nelson)
Are you normal?
Gregor Samsa is. He has a nice normal job and a nice normal family and lives in a nice normal house with normal wishes and normal dreams and a nice normal future to look forward to.
That is until the day he wakes to discover he has turned into a giant insect.
In a new creative adaptation by Splendid Productions (UK), Franz Kafka’s chilling story of dislocation, mutation and isolation is transformed into a slithering, creeping, wriggling, delightful, comical, tragical, musical, physical theatrical adventure for everyone who has woken up wondering: has the world changed, or is it just me?
By Franz Kafka, adapted by Kerry Frampton.
Presented by Piece of Work Productions (Nelson)
Venue Red Door Theatre
Dates Thurs 23, Sat 25, Tues 28 March
Cast - Michaela Sheehan, Keith Marshall and Mike O’Malley.
Tragi-comic treatment of alienation, identity and the human condition is unique, powerful and truly memorable
Review by Judene Edgar 24th Mar 2023
An adaptation of a 1915 German novella by Franz Kafka doesn’t necessarily scream comedy gold to me, but all of my expectations of this play are quickly dispelled. While faithful to Kafka’s original story, Kerry Frampton’s adaptation is a stunning retelling with her own unique flair. While Shakespeare delivered the classic ‘play within a play’, Frampton gives us the ‘play before the play’.
The house lights are on, music is gently playing in the background, but the three actors are busy waving and pointing at the audience, taking notes in their notebooks, muttering and mumbling, and loudly ticking off unknown criteria. We’re then drawn into the first “Am I normal?” interlude – with each of the three actors in turn, selecting a random question which they read out to the audience before asking us – Am I normal?
Half of my friends are people I wish I never met – Am I normal?
I like to smell my own farts – Am I normal?
I like squeezing other people’s pimples – Am I normal?
And then the play starts – with a dictionary definition, paper bag masks, and an apple.
Is this normal?
It is anything but, and the audience is loving it!
Besides, this is the story of Gregor Samsa, a hardworking salesman who wakes up one day to find himself transformed into a cockroach. Did we really expect normal?
Up until this point Gregor’s life was very normal. He had a nice normal job, a nice normal family, and lived in a nice normal house with normal hopes and dreams. However, with Gregor’s unexpected metamorphosis, his normal life and that of his family’s ends abruptly. With the family’s sole breadwinner ‘indisposed’, they are deprived of financial stability so must find ways to make money, including taking in lodgers. In the meantime, they keep Gregor locked away in his empty bedroom, save for his beloved framed portrait of a woman clad in fur. All the while his sister, Grete, regales us with cockroach facts.
The cast of Michaela Sheehan, Keith Marshall and Mike O’Malley are excellent, taking on 13 roles including those of the curators, who bring the story to life for us, with each actor delivering a nuanced and powerful performance. There is also some terrific physical acting throughout the play from all three actors. Their versatility and fluidity intertwining dialogue with chorus, sign language, rhyme, and perfectly synchronized dialogue, is impressive to say the least.
Michaela Sheehan brings warmth and depth to her role of Grete one minute, and next minute she is incredibly effective at being an extremely annoying alarm clock. Similarly, Keith Marshall seamlessly transforms from tyrannical father, to endearing charwoman, to a freakishly deep-voiced wardrobe. Mike O’Malley also transforms from a gilt-framed picture to a nerdish box-ticking curator with ease.
The play explores the themes of alienation, identity, and the human condition. Through the use of clever staging and visual effects, Frampton captures the surreal and absurd nature of Kafka’s writing. Contrasting the complexity of the show’s themes, the set design is deceptively simplistic. The cast play many of the pieces of furniture, and ropes are used to form doorways, a sash window and a picture frame. The costumes are similarly simplistic and drab – brown and beige – emphasizing the dullness of the family’s routine life.
Director Anton Bentley (Piece of Work Productions) has brought something unique, powerful and truly memorable to Nelson audiences. His casting and clever use of props, and understated staging and lighting, demonstrate the power of good story telling and clever direction.
For all its tragedy, it is a laugh-out-loud comedy that you will enjoy and want to see again.
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