Gísli Örn Garssarsson's visionary Iceland physical theatre troupe Vesturport has created bigger, flashier and more ambitious work than 'Metamorphosis', which returns to the Lyric its third run since premiering here in 2006. But it's never made anything as well-realised as this brilliant, overtly politicised take on Kafka's 1915 novella about a clerk who wakes up one morning to discover that he has, inexplicably, turned into a grotesque giant insect.
Except here, he hasn't: dressed in nothing more terrifying than a rumpled suit, the rather dashing Garssarsson plays the hapless Gregor as a bewildered everyman who can't understend why everyone now finds him so horrific. True, he clambers athletically about his bedchamber with a vaguely scuttling manner. But with the contents of his room – bed, chair, window, furniture – rotated at a 90 degree angle, Gregor is actually 'walking' along the floor: it is his increasingly hostile family who are actually at the 'wrong' angle.
Börkur Jonsson's skew-whiff house set remains stunning, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis's score is eerily gorgeous, and there are superb performances all round, most notably the pitiable Garssarsson and Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir as Gregor's sister Greta, who undergoes the real metamorphosis – from kindly, music-loving schoolgirl to brutally unsentimental authoritarian.
Adapted by Garssarsson and David Farr, this 'Metamosphosis' is a parable about the fate of the Jews in twentieth-century Europe, as the hard-working Gregor's family spit nonsensical abuse at him while fawning over Jonathan McGuinness's's creepy proto-Nazi Herr Fischer. Once you've acclimatised to the virtuoso visuals, the odd moment does sag. But the last half-hour is devastating – as the centenary of Kafka's novella approaches, it's hard to see this being unseated as the definitive stage version.
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