“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
That is the simple yet unforgettable opening line to Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’.
Frantic Assembly's rendition offers an eerie – and at times, shocking – perspective on a classic tale of family dynamics and societal pressures.
The new ‘must-see’ show in H&F’s theatreland now runs at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre until Saturday 2 March.
Gregor goes beetle
The play tells the story of travelling salesman and sole bread winner Gregor Samsa who, one day, wakes up to find that he’s transformed into a giant beetle. He becomes completely reliant on his family that once relied on him.
This unexpected change shakes up his usual life and sets the stage for a family tragedy with a supernatural twist. Or is it?
“I don’t think what happens to Gregor is a supernatural event. I think it’s a result of stress,” said Director Scott Graham. “Gregor is desperate to get the family out of debt and the confined life they lead.”
The Samsa family's financial struggles and societal expectations adds a contemporary layer to Kafka's timeless tale, making it relevant to today's audience.
Praised as ‘the best horror story ever written’ by master of the macabre, H.P. Lovecraft, Samsa's transformation becomes a metaphor for the impact of stress and mental health crises on people and their relationships.
A family tragedy
Lemn Sissay OBE's script stays true to the original, while highlighting the transformation of not only Gregor but his sister.
“I think the metamorphosis that takes place is as much about Grete as it is about Gregor,” said Sissay. “She is the person in the story who experiences great change of many different kinds.”
As the family member closest to Gregor, Grete takes on the task of feeding him food when he first turns bug while their parents keep away. Over time, hidden family tensions unfold and unexpected consequences bubble to the surface.
“When the cracks begin to appear, the structure cannot hold,” said Graham. “It’s a tragedy.”
Tickets from £10 are available via the Lyric Hammersmith theatre website. Suitable for ages 14 and above.
Free first nights
If you live or work in Hammersmith & Fulham, you can enter a draw for free tickets to the first night of any main show through our Free First Night scheme.
It’s one of the ways we’re making H&F a place Where Culture Connects as part of our bid to become London Borough of Culture 2025. You can back our bid here.