PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am


Vesturport and Lyric Hammersmith

Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts

Reviewed: Feb 19

Co-directed by David Farr and Gisli Orn Gardarsson, this Vesturport and Lyric Hammersmith production of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis proves that adaptations of serious literary classics need not be heavy. Their version is fast-paced and entertaining but loses none of the dark tone of this existentialist tale of alienation and loneliness.

Salesman Gregor Samsa (Gardarsson) wakes up to find he has turned into a giant insect. His family react differently to his predicament: his father (Ingvar E. Sigurdsson) is repulsed, his mother (Kelly Hunter) heartbroken. His sister Grete (Lara Sveinsdottir) is initially sympathetic but later feels they should get rid of the creature.

Farr and Gardarsson chose to stress the comedic rather than the horrific aspects of the situation. The destruction of the orderly lives of the Samsas is portrayed as a farce rather than a tragedy.

The two-level set designed by Borkur Jonsson captured the audience's imagination. Normality rules on the ground floor, whereas Gregor's room is turned sideways so the audience is forced to look at his world from a skewed perspective.

The Icelandic-British cast gave solid performances. Gardarsson bounces and leaps through a role that is both physical and poignant, while Sigurdsson and Sveinsdottir push the narrative forward at a steady pace.

The haunting, melodic score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis adds emotional depth, especially to the climax of the piece when Gregor comes crashing into the deserted living room.