Upper Fifth pupil and dramatist Maddie Goodman writes about her experience of putting a modern twist on Kafka's Metamorphosis in Bede's latest MFL and Drama collaboration.
I first encountered Kafka’s Metamorphosis last year, after watching a set of A Level devised pieces that transposed his text into two different contexts: the hotshot world of the 1960's workplace, and the absurd funeral service of Samsa as a beetle. I’m interested in the ways that texts can undergo cultural vandalism, and still retain pertinence and complexity - there is, I think, no transposition that could possibly water down the absurd menace of the Kafkaesque, which is why I was so thrilled when Mr Rohmer approached me with his new adaption of the classic novel.
This is, strangely, not my first foreign language piece. Last year, I had the privilege of being technical manager for a student-led interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s classic play Huis Clos last year. Being a non-native speaker, this posed several challenges, I quickly devised the means to overcome the biggest problem which was translation. As well as this language barrier, I also had to develop independent skills. These abilities were especially important as I was the youngest member of the company. Support from my peers was particularly important. Having drawn so many lessons and experiences from my involvement in Huis Clos, I was keen to distil these in my next challenge of a German play.
Initially, early rehearsals – which started in September – concentrated on pronunciations and making the actresses feel more confident on stage. As an experienced dramatist myself, I was able to impart my knowledge and passion onto them. Once rehearsals were under way, the emphasis was on putting the three separate components of dance, music and drama together to support Mr Rohmer in fulfilling his ambitions for the production. From my perspective, after reading the script I was keen that the production should feature a grotesque and distorted reality. I mainly thought this should come across through the disordered nature of our set design - highlighted by the presence of the ramp - which truly shows the struggle that the characters face. I also explored the idea of escapism which I wanted to keep as a key ongoing theme throughout.
With the joint efforts of the cast and Mr Rohmer, we have been able to put a modern twist on a 20th century German text. After five months in the rehearsal room, I am very proud to present to you Die Verwandlung – Metamorphosis.
Upper Sixth pupil Max Mason, who directed and starred in our MFL-Drama collaboration Huis Clos for his Bede's Diploma EPQ last year, attended the performance. He comments, "I just wanted to say how utterly fantastic I thought tonight’s performance was. The cast and crew captured everything that makes Kafka meaningful - the mystery, the absurdity, the surrealism and most importantly the menace. The cast’s commitment was unwavering; we oscillated through gritty realism, emotional trauma and the bourgeois-grotesque. The incorporation of music and dance created an atmosphere that most National Theatre directors would be jealous of - no small feat."
"I admit to never having learnt or spoken a word of German," Max continues, "but I was totally absorbed within every word and gesture. The use of space gave an ironic comparison between the two ‘worlds’ of the Beetle’s room and the domestic space, yet it felt like the family were just as confined as Samsa - baffled by a patriachal society filled with the bleak, cruel and mocking. You faithfully adapted the original novella, yet also offered ties to the contemporary through an intriguing, postmodern focus on the split between the psychological and the external - an original and thought-provoking interpretation.
"I simply could go on and on."