Narcissistic interpretation of Kafka’s seminal text
This article is from 2013.
The tantalising mixture of traditional Peking style opera, beautiful set design and multimedia projections by Ethan Wang sounds like a play befitting the International Festival's Art and Technology theme, a special treat for the open-minded enthusiast. This adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, however, was utterly swamped by Wu Hsing-kuo’s resounding narcissism.
Watching Wu enthusiastically dance – with surprising flexibility for his 60 years – for the first half an hour quickly lost its appeal despite a beautifully crafted bug costume and live orchestra accompaniment. Adorned with an impressive pair of antennae which occasionally flashed with green LEDs , the repetitive choreography would have been manageable over a shorter space of time. Unfortunately, he continued in the same manner for over two hours. Between interacting with a video projection of himself as Kafka, and representing the dying Samsa through the husk of the bug costume he had once occupied, Wu continued his monologue, critiquing Samsa’s mental state – rather missing the central theme of the text.
Although the play did include some sub textual references to the Absurdist movement and other notable Kafkaesque ideas (such as the parable of the doorkeeper), the overall tone of the play fell somewhat short. A very unsteady ascending and descending of Lin Keh-Hua’s central stage piece closely resembled Sartre’s Sisyphus, and nicely complemented references to the Buddhist notion of Samsara scattered through the piece. An interesting commentary on the transient nature of identity, as represented by Wu metamorphosing from man to woman in the midst of his emotive vocals, was nullified by the fact that he still appeared to be a man dressed in lavish women’s clothing, rather than the ‘womanly woman’ his lyrics suggested.
As general artistic director of the Contemporary Legend Theatre of Taiwan and with a prestigious career behind him, Wu Hsing-Kuo has said that he feels his situation resembles Gregors, quipping 'I liked bugs, and I never stepped on one'. Perhaps he has finally crushed the metaphorical bug of Kafka’s tale with this solipsistic stage adaptation.