The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, adapted by Arthur Pita: Royal Opera House on line to 17th May 2020: 5***** Mark Courtice

The Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka, adapted by Arthur Pita


Choreography: Arthur Pita

Music: Frank Moon

Designs: Simon Daw

Lighting design: Guy Hoare


The Royal Ballet filmed for Sky Arts showing at #OurHousetoYourHouse  18th April to 17th May 2020.

Viewing platforms #OurHousetoYourHouse  The Royal Opera YouTube or Facebook channels

1 hour and 30 minutes, no interval. Review Mark Courtice



Arthur Pita has made Kafka’s frightening story of Gregor, who turns into an insect overnight, into an astonishing piece of theatre. As a commission from the Royal Ballet you’d expect dance, but this is so much more; with Frank Moon’s eerie textured score and Guy Hoare‘s lighting with its pools of darkness against Simon Daw`s pale domestic interior and a company who act as well as they move – this is the whole deal.

A surreal text like this might mean broad brush storytelling, but this is precise, detailed, and accurate. The choreography is fabulous, the establishment of Gregor’s daily life well observed and neatly done. Later, for example, Gregor’s anguished twists are cleverly mirrored by the family cleaning up after him.

Edward Watson’s Gregor is superb. His limbs twine, he scrabbles for purchase in the black slime surrounds him, his feet and toes seem as expressive and articulate as his hands. By the end almost nothing in his movement is human but you always know this once was a man; Watson’s skill as an actor means, appallingly, you know he still is.

Laura Day is excellent as Greta his sister, at first recognising her brother in this shiny black creature and by the end terrified of the stranger in their midst. The final image of her standing in the glare of sodium light in her yellow dress after Gregor has gone possibly stands for hope. Bettina Carpi as the cleaner comes across as a real character, human and roughly kind.

As the production is staged in traverse in Linbury Studio the well-produced film often relies on shots from above to get the whole stage picture. The detail of the production, the precision of the movement and the depth of the acting mean that close ups are revealing rather than reductive.


Gregor Samsa: Edward Watson

Grete Samsa: Laura Day

Mrs Samsa: Nina Goldman

Mr Samsa: Neil Reynolds

Maid/Coffee Lady: Bettina Carpi

Clerk: Greig Cooke

Train Conductor: Amir Giles

Dream Figure/Bearded Men: Bettina Carpi, Amir Giles, Greig Cooke

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