One cloudy Saturday afternoon this term, I met with the cast and crew of ‘The Metamorphosis’ to find out about Matchbox Production’s latest show…
Kobi Mohan: So, what is ‘The Metamorphosis’ about?
Lily Berrell (Director): The protagonist is Gregor Samsa. He is a travelling salesman in the cloth trade who has been worked to the bone and suffers under the pressure of his family, who rely on him financially. At the beginning of the play, he wakes up to discover that he has transformed into some repulsive and unhuman creature. He is unable to communicate with his family and continue his normal life, although the audience remains aware that he thinks the same. At first, his younger sister Greta takes on the responsibility to care for Gregor, but the family are increasingly repulsed by his state and begin to move on with their lives. Once the father gets a new job, the family imagine a future without Gregor, who is left to suffer in his room in complete isolation.
Kobi: Why did you decide to put on ‘The Metamorphosis’?
Lily: ‘The Metamorphosis’ is my favourite book. I decided to come to Oxford to be able to study Kafka specifically as part of my German degree. My dad was a big Kafka reader and got me into the books when I was in sixth form. ‘The Metamorphosis’ was the first Kafka book I read and once my German improved enough, I started to read it in the original language, and it made me think about the differences between the two and the difficulties with translation. To make things even more complicated, I thought it would be interesting to see how Kafka’s work can be depicted visually, so this project has become a sort of three-way translation.
Kobi: What were your inspirations for dressing Gregor and cast in general?
Izzy Kori (Set & Costume Design): I was really inspired by The Royal Ballet’s adaption of ‘The Metamorphosis’. For Gregor there is the use of this tar-like, viscous fluid that he becomes smothered with, which I’ve tried to recreate. Similarly I’ve used expanding foam all around Gregor’s room and other parts of the set to show the spreading of his infection, indicating where his presence has been and how it slowly infects the stage.
Kobi: What is your process going into a set and costume design project like this?
Izzy: I usually read the script/book a few times and get down some initial ideas and drawings and then talk through with the director how they want to adapt the play so we’re on a similar wavelength. From that point I have quite a lot of creative freedom, there’s lots of charity shop visits and Ebay purchases involved. It’s hard to really know how the vision will come together until it materialises on stage, which only really happens during show week, so it’s an exciting but nerve racking experience.
Kobi: How does your approach to sound design differ to previous productions of ‘The Metamorphosis’?
Alva Orr (Sound Design): The entire audience will be wearing headphones throughout the show – this is a listening format known as binaural sound. This allows us to create sonic experiences that are extremely visceral and intimate. If you have ever listened to an ASMR video, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about! It also allows us unprecedented control over the sound, letting me warp time and space as I please in the show. I’ve been wanting to do a project using binaural sound for quite some time now. When I saw the script for Metamorphosis I knew it was just a perfect fit for the technique and I just went for it!
Kobi: Have you had any memorable moments during rehearsals?
Joe Rachman (Gregor): When you’re crawling around on a table and making crazy soap ASMR, rehearsals are never unmemorable! This project has been so different from everything I’ve done before and it’s been great fun experimenting with all the different aspects of the show. I’ll certainly never forget becoming a human microphone and having everyone eating food right next to my ears, that was definitely a new one for me.
Kobi: How similar would you say you are to your character?
Joe: When we first meet Gregor in the play he’s already a bug, so I guess in that regards we’re not too similar, although I have started sitting in bug positions because they are way more comfortable than they look!
Kobi: In three words, why should Cherwell readers go and see Metamorphosis?
Joe: Bugs are cool.