September 23, 2011 10:06 pm

The Metamorphosis, Linbury Studio, London

Edward Watson’s glorious incarnation of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as an insect shows dance genius

Nothing that Edward Watson dances can lack dramatic urgency. Given the right roles he proves, time and again, that he is an artist of most remarkable perceptions. In roles as different as Palemon in Ondine, Mayerling’s Rudolf, as Titus in Invitus, Invitam and the insane teacher in The Lesson, Watson lays bare a psyche in movement of Egon Schiele-like nervous intensity and precision. Now, in an apotheosis of muscular bravura, he incarnates Kafka’s Gregor Samsa – who woke up one morning and found himself a dreadful insect.

The staging is cleverly choreographed by Arthur Pita, well designed by Simon Daw to evoke a petit bourgeois home and has an eclectic score by Frank Moon. It has an able cast, lasts 80 minutes, and 20 of those minutes seem self-indulgent rather than needed. The point of the production is how Pita shows us Gregor Samsa as insect – and how Watson transcends even Pita’s splendidly observed dance to show us what I affirm is dance genius.

No other word will do. Watson’s lean physique, his astonishingly responsive limbs, his hugely expressive musculature, all mean the insect-Gregor is a contorted and not-human being, toes curling and quivering, fingers twisting, legs stretching and questioning.

But where genius strikes, and the insect-Gregor’s identity emerges amid disgusting smears and gobbets of some brown liquid that covers his world, is in Watson’s ability to convey the imprisoned man and his alien nature. The suffering portrayed is that of medieval crucifixes, of Francis Bacon’s contorted males, of animals in their death-throes. Watson awakes our every response by his prodigious interpretation.

It is terrifying, heart-tearing, piteous. And glorious. It must, must be seen. It must, must be filmed.

www.roh.org.uk

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