Kings Theatre Four stars “My tiny body carries the weight of the world,” says Gregor Samsa in Wu Hsing-kuo's free adaptation of Franz Kafka's seminal novella for Wu's Taiwan-based Contemporary Legend Theatre. Such a notion is the rub of what is clearly a very personal take on Kafka's story of a young man who wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a giant bug. Utilising a fusion of ancient Peking Opera techniques and state of art projections, Wu performs solo, playing both Gregor and the sister he dotes on, while even a black-and-white clad Kafka makes an appearance, willing the empty shell Gregor has become to live. Wu's version of Gregor crawls out of a rock-like structure looking not unlike a 1970s Dr Who monster, but once he launches himself into the piece, even the bug's tendrils seem to have been choreographed to perfection. Out of this Wu lays bare Gregor's life of drudgery by way of a back story for Gregor as an abandoned orphan, something which had a profound effect on his gradual sense of lovelessness. Wu may be the only person onstage, but his riveting performance is enabled by the stunning array of visual effects, and especially by a ten-piece band, who, like Wu, take traditional Taiwanese fare and make it thrillingly modern. By the end, Gregor may have been abandoned, but, in Wu's hands, he has managed to shed his old skin enough to find liberation enough to soar.
The Herald, August 12th 2013 ends