Review – Metamorphosis, Lyric, Hammersmith

Wednesday 26 March 2008

It was Andrew’s idea that the Whingers should enjoy a risk-free evening at the theatre by seeing something tried, tested, shorter than 90 minutes with no interval and personally recommended by one who will remain nameless.

Also… something critically acclaimed. However, in the last 24 hours it is has become crystal clear that NDJ, MB, CS and BN are no guide at all (but take a bow, sole-voice-of-reason Alice Jones).

So, anyway, yes, off to see Metamorphosis at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

Ah, Hammersmith. Have you ever tried eating there?

Having done a quick reconnaissance, Phil had identified the Hammersmith Ram as a suitable candidate – near to the Lyric, cheap wine, decent sounding menu and a rather suggestive name which made them chuckle quite childishly.

So the hungry Whingers eagerly ordered a “rustic bread board with olives and olive oil and balsamic vinegar” to start and then the delicious-sounding butternut squash risotto.

What would you expect to see on a rustic bread board? Two slices of brown sliced bread (toasted on one side), two slices of white bread (ditto) and two pieces of pitta bread? We hope not. But then what do we know? Perhaps this is how people in the countryside eat these days. Or how people in Hammersmith imagine how people in the countryside eat these days.

As I’m sure you can imagine, clouds were gathering over the Whingers’ heads. Roll on the risotto…

… which was the blandest pile of goo ever to be served under the name “risotto”. Andrew spotted a piece of orange colour vegetable among the rice and pounced on it eagerly, but it proved to have no flavour either. Phil was of course sulking like a very over-ripe teenager by this stage.

All of which wider context you have had to read through in order to set the emotional context within which the Whingers went to the Lyric Theatre.

Metamorphosis is, of course, based on the Franz Kafka story about a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer – which doesn’t translate terribly well (especially when – like the Whingers – you don’t actually speak a word of German) but is generally translated as either monstrous vermin or insect.

This version is by the Icelandic company Vesturport and is notable for the athleticism and gymnastics used by Björn Thors (right) in his portrayal of the vermin cum insect. Andrew was very impressed with all the scuttling across walls and down bannisters although he was disappointed with the absence of either an insect costume or a vermin costume. Phil explained that it was in the same vein as the stage version of The Elephant Man – you have to use your imagination which drew blank looks from Andrew.

Phil (who of course represented his county in rhythmic gymnastics, left) was less sold on the physicality of it.

Indeed, he was in a one of his jaded moods, dismissing it as so much old hat – he had seen it all before apparently when Tim Roth writhed around in a climbing frame in Berkoff’s Metamorphosis.

It was a shame, because his interest had been piqued during the opening scene in which sister Grete (Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir) breathed into a paper bag – was this going to be another fabulous vomiting scene?

Phil also felt that it played its big set trick – Gregor’s room on its side – too soon. In Phil’s view, everyone’s turning rooms on their side and putting beds on the wall: Hairspray does it, the Pet Shop Boys Musical Closer to Heaven did it and Sunset Boulevard did it with a swimming pool and what’s more Fred Astaire did it before any of them.

It may be cutting edge in Iceland but Phil had seen it all before although, to be fair, what has Phil not seen before?

Well, what Phil hadn’t seen before was plates of food (old cheese) being stuck to the wall/floor, now that did impress and has given a whole new slant to his food on stage thesis – literally. This is a bit of a relief to Andrew as after last week’s outing he was on the verge of burning his thesis on food consumption on stage and starting a new one on food regurgitation on stage. What his professor would say about that is as yet untested.

But it’s a bit unfair to knock Iceland as a ground-breaking creative epicentre given its small population (301,931). It would be like knocking Leicester as an artistic melting pot, but at least they don’t piss on their meat and bury it in the ground to eat later and they do have some very nice cheese in a dependable kind of way. But then again Iceland did produce Lazytown.

Anyway, add to all this the School of Shouty Acting delivery which rather tiresomely seeks to enclose everything within inverted commas and the evening was entirely lost to Phil.

Andrew – who had also seen Vesturport’s Woyzeck (right) at the Barbican and so knew to nothing more than some imaginative physical theatre – was rather more equivocal.

Perhaps predictably the music by Nick Cave made little or no impression on either Whinger.

Both Whingers, however, were unanimous on the highlight of the evening: the memorable line “Shut it, shopgirl!” which has become a new favourite phrase or saying which is currently vying for the lexicon top spot alongside “Write it down!“.

6 Responses to “Review – Metamorphosis, Lyric, Hammersmith”

  1. Penny Says:

    Wow, Phil looks good in a leotard! Did he keep the hula hoop?

  2. Helen Smith Says:

    Oh Wow. I don’t think I had seen that Fred Astaire clip before.

    I thought Metamorphosis was fab. I’m sure that disappointing risotto spoiled your enjoyment of the show. You need to think about packing sandwiches and a thermos to take with you to these things (see Natasha at Interval Drinks for details).

  3. Ted Kraus Says:

    There is a difference between being snide and
    being clever. This is first WWB that seems to have
    this nasty,not fun. tone.

  4. Sorry. Der Mensch ist, was er ißt

  5. mark I Says:

    What’s a WWB?

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