views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Studio Theatre, Central Saint Martins
8th May 2014


Leonardo Pancione, Iddo Gruengard and Lucie Novak as Gregor, the man and the woman

Photography © Mette Sterre

When it comes to graduation shows, usually you shouldn't allow yourself to expect too much. Time and time again, whilst university does give many actors and creatives a solid foundation, it's experience which makes them confident and rounds them off. However, having already encountered Iddo Gruengard's work as part of last year's Camden Fringe, we did dare to hope that Metamorphosing would be somewhat more interesting than your average graduation piece. As in Pinter's Night, Gruengard makes clear that he does not believe in traditional theatre and is determined to challenge as well as entertain.

Metamorphosing openly draws inspiration from Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and also Gruengard's own life. As intelligent as the play is, it always remains a very personal one. Blending physical theatre with video, this devised piece shows a man (Gruengard himself) trying to come to terms with a sudden disability, mocked by a doctor (Jackson D Kza) and comforted by a woman (Lucie Novak) who he just can't seem to help but constantly push away. Whether the doctor's cruelty is real or imagined, the simple fact that the man perceives himself to be treated that badly is enough to garner our sympathy.

The man's story is paralleled with that of Gregor (Leonardo Pacione), Kafka's bizarre insect creature that no one could ever love. Gregor never questioned his transformation from a normal man into a fly, but despite the way that he accepted his changed form, his downfall was society's inability to do the same. Comparing the lives of the two men is unsettling, yet declaring it unfair involves judging either the disabled man or the insect to be less than the other. Despite the outward metamorphoses, both remain human - ordinary men who have been subjected to extraordinary events - and to judge one as more normal begs the question of what that is. Very little is said during the play, but the audience are still pushed to reassess the ideas they entered into the venue with, perhaps opinions they didn't realise they held.

Lucie Novak as the woman

Photography provided by © Mette Sterre

The use of video is generally very well thought out, creating an uncomfortably claustrophobic atmosphere. Close up shots of medical equipment replicate what the distressed man can see from his bed, what he can focus on, and clips which loop over and over again focus on some significant moments. They force the audience to relieve those key points in time just as the characters do. However, the projection at the top of the stage is unfortunately a little too high, creating a restricted view of some of the footage. Whilst it's not overly damaging to the production as a whole, it does show a lapse in attention to detail.

Pacione's very physical performance is disturbingly powerful, and undoubtedly one of the more compelling aspects of the play. The flipside though is that with movement director Kat Leung bringing so much to the party, you do question whether the already light dialogue is even necessary, or if those words should instead be conveyed with more movement and music.

Metamorphosing is a carefully developed idea, worthy of a large audience, but as with Pinter's Night, the length of the run is frustratingly one show only. Such is the difficulty is catching one of Gruengard's productions, several audience members sat on the floor, the seating all taken. With Metamorphosing marking the end of his MA, Gruengard of course has further to go on his journey, but he knows where he wants to go and has an unconventional, exciting future ahead.

Metamorphosing was performed on 8th May 2014 at the Studio Theatre, Central Saint Martins. It will next run from 28th to 29th July 2014 at Camden People's Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: King's Cross St. Pancras (Victoria, Piccadilly, Northern, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith)

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