Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt. Er lag auf seinem panzerartig harten Rücken und sah, wenn er den Kopf ein wenig hob, seinen gewölbten, braunen, von bogenförmigen Versteifungen geteilten Bauch, auf dessen Höhe sich die Bettdecke, zum gänzlichen Niedergleiten bereit, kaum noch erhalten konnte. Seine vielen, im Vergleich zu seinem sonstigen Umfang kläglich dünnen Beine flimmerten ihm hilflos vor den Augen. »Was ist mit mir geschehen?«, dachte er.
Kafka, Die Verwandlung
And there it was — opening night for Die Verwandlung! And us not only in the front row, but also represented with selected texts from our workshop.
Jan Friedrich’s take on Kafka’s text is an interesting collage. Not only does Friedrich work intertextually when implementing various scripts from Ibsen and Woolf, he also opts for a deconstructional approach: the Samsa family’s house gets literally taken apart during the 2,5-hour-show, so does the family itself and even the transformed Gregor is represented by a triple-bug played by three actors in pink bodysuits — Janosch Fries, Simone Oswald and Michael Schröder. The figure three is, as in the original text, continually taken up in the production — dismantled and then put together again.
Transforming an epic text into a dramatic one, especially one that relies so heavily on a narrator as Die Verwandlung, is always a challenge. Friedrich solved this challenge by having the various characters of the family take over narrative parts, therefore presenting the story not only out of one perspective, but out of multiple ones. The audience therefore is forced to put the puzzle together themselves — which character’s rendition of the events can one trust? To deepen various perspectives, the production employs medial means — a live camera projection of specific scenes is projected onto the outside of the Samsa house, and at one point, onto the torso of one of the three bugs. These images create a certain voyeuristic atmosphere, since these scenes rely heavily on intimate and private moments of the various family members. The only set-back would be the delayed and mismatching sound in these medial scenes.
While the set was rather puristic, the characters themselves were presented in a much louder fashion, much resembling the Simpsons. Painted in yellow, with oversized wigs made of foam rubber and wearing huge, bulging eyes, they appeared grotesque. Emotions were expressed through language and gestures, facial expressions could not be deciphered. Their puppet-like appearance could alos very well signal a dehumanized family unit.
The first half ended on one of the bug-actors seemingly in dialogue with himself, slipping back and forth between Mother and Son. The son, notifying his mother of a disease that would gradually degenerate and kill him, begs his mother to help him to end the torture. The mother though cannot accept her child’s death and therefore refuses to help him die. A harsh moment to be released into the break. After the intermission, the audience is faced with a new transformation, one into the reverse — from bug to human being, from bug to — so it is implied by the actor wearing a ‘human’ mask — Kafka himself. Notably this character stood out against the others because it appeared and looked as the only human being in this production, but also felt like one. At some point, all three bugs morph back into one entity and, void of any energy and determination whatsoever to stay alive, willingly allow themselves to be squashed by the house’s roof. The roof now sitting prominently on stage centre, turns into a hill-side area, with the remaining family members — father, mother and daughter — forming a holy trinity and frolicking about the future. Fittingly, the evening ends with the Maid chiming into the Beatles’ “Here comes the sun…”
All in all, it was an evening with some excellent acting and much conversation to ensue in the classroom. Thank you, Schauburg & team!
Texts written by ESM students as presented in the Schauburg Programme
Und es war ihnen wie eine Bestätigung ihrer neuen Träume und guten Absichten, als am Ziele ihrer Fahrt die Tochter als erste sich erhob und ihren jungen Körper dehnte.
Kafka, Die Verwandlung