Skip to main content

The Metamorphosis: After Kafka and Nabokov

Summerhall, Edinburgh
Three stars

What to do if your leading lady passes away shortly before a performance? As is always the case with theatrical etiquette, the show must go on and you bring on the understudy, even if it’s a different species. That’s the back-story to this one-off Edinburgh International Science Festival date for a work-in-progress from biologist and some-time stand-up, Simon Watt, which aims to dissect one of modern literature’s seemingly darkest creations.

Over fifty-five minutes, Watt and a ukulele-playing accomplice first act out a lo-fi version of Franz Kafka’s story about down-trodden office worker Gregor Samsa’s transformation into what is usually translated as a dung beetle. This is something that novelist, entomologist and Kafka scholar Vladimir Nabokov took serious issue with. With this in mind, it’s perhaps fortunate that this pocket-sized contemporisation featuring a Zero Hours contracted Greg includes a real live cockroach rather than the unfortunately deceased stag beetle who preceded it. The audience sees this in projected close-ups filmed live by Watt from outside a dolls house type construction.

Once Greg comes to a sticky end with a whole lot more metaphorical fun than is usually found in Kafka’s work, the second half of the show throws Nabokov’s linguistic pedantry into an entertaining and at times off-the-cuff mix of pop science cabaret. This results in various six-legged creatures being passed around the audience for inspection. All of which makes for quite a show-and-tell, as assorted creepy-crawlies are accorded due respect while giving some educational insight into the secret life of the ‘vile and verminous insect’ of Kafka’s opening paragraph. There’s still some way to go yet, and Nabokov is crying out to have more of a say, but this might just be a monster show in the making.

The Herald, April 3rd 2018



ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…

This House

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Five years is a long time in politics just as it is in the theatre. When James Graham’s epic reimagining of one of the most pivotal eras in late twentieth century British democracy first appeared in 2012, its depiction of the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament in Westminster chimed with a then current coalition. Half a decade and a couple of referendums on, Graham’s dramatic whizz through to 1979’s successful vote of no confidence in the Labour government now looks like a warning.
Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s touring revival of a production first seen at the National Theatre begins with both sides of the House marching en masse in their grey suits and twin-sets down the aisles of the auditorium before cutting a well-choreographed rug in formation. As the Labour and Tory whips mark out their territory away from the chamber, this proves to be one of the few moments of unity in a breathless yarn that picks at the old-school gentleman’s agree…