Metamorphosis – Suffolk Youth Theatre, Jerwood Dancehouse

In a day focussed on how Arts Council cuts may impact the future of theatre, it is perhaps sadly appropriate that Suffolk Youth Theatre open their 17th and potentially final public stage production.

There’s a sense of coming full circle as the company return to the production that they first staged back in 1995, Stephen Berkoff’s stage adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphoses.

As travelling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes one morning he finds he has transformed into a giant insect, his family seem more concerned over the loss of income than over Gregor’s suffering and, as he further changes from human to insect, he becomes more alienated from his family, especially his sister, Greta, who turns from his initial carer to the lead voice in calling for his demise.

This absurd plot never gives the audience easy answers, allowing them to take their own view of what this transformation symbolises. What it does do, however, is to give an inventive theatre company ample scope for creativity.

For the last 17 years, Suffolk Youth Theatre has shown that it works best when pushing the boundaries of drama, music and movement and, true to form, Metamorphoses proves to be a perfect showcase for this combination of theatrical styles.

Highly physical, choreographed to the split second and underscored by an evocative score it’s a demonstration of the very best young talent Suffolk can produce.

The company of 13 young performers aged, between 15-21, deliver performances with professional skill and flair. This is a true ensemble show with every performances supporting the whole, every movement perfectly timed and every character, however surreal, carefully observed.

Within this universally strong ensemble, however, Jack Brett’s Gregor must get special mention. A highly physical performance, he makes the transformation of Gregor into insect totally believable, each movement and inflection designed to convey the torment.

Michael Platt’s direction keeps the action flowing at a pace while never losing characterisation, while Pat Whymark’s score adds atmospheric depth, echoed in Will Evans’ effective lighting.

Projects such as Suffolk Youth Theatre not only teach young people stage skills, the skills learnt both onstage and backstage provide vital life skills that enhance the community. Confidence, team working, discipline and working to deadlines just some of the benefits of working on productions such as this.

Metamorphoses shows that Suffolk Youth Theatre can give many professional companies a run for their money in the quality of their productions and as the group undergoes their metamorphosis lets hope that some way can be found that allows them to continue their vital work.

If the worse case scenario does unfold then this production is a fitting swansong as a shining example of the wealth of young talent we have in Suffolk.

Photo: Suffolk Youth Theatre Metamorphosis. Photo by Mike Kwasniak

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