By Laura Heuston
Inspired by Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, The Becoming positions us to view this famed story from the women’s point of view, in the modern time. Instead of a cockroach, we have an eco-terrorist. Instead of he being the protagonist, his sister Greta leads the show. And everyone around them are too distracted by their own lesser concerns to see what is really going on.
Greta (Sarah Maguire) wants to undergo a transformation into kindness, with a desire to abandon her education for the sake of raising children- who will be their own individuals- and give them the gift of love provided by her own parents, but better. The original Greta of course wants to continue her education, with both pieces presenting a female character subverting the expected norm of the time. However, for both Gretas, these goals are forgone due to her brother Gregor’s (Patrick Holman) transformation. He emerges from his room, donned in huge insect like glasses, cameo, and with a beard grown overnight- along with something much more sinister. Crimes have been committed, and more are on the way, each becoming more extreme and cruel. He seems to have decided that love of anything but the planet is no longer worthwhile- shocking and terrifying his entire family.
We only see the extremist however Greta knows someone else, and this is the crux of the female perspective on this well known story. She is horrified by her brother, but her love never seems to waiver. She wants to save him from himself, but can’t break out of others’ perception of her as a young girl, not worth listening to. Maguire’s performance of the knowledgeable but ignored young woman starts stilted, especially in the opening monologue, however I have to admit that a monologue about breakfast is hard to convey deep character through. Nevertheless we come to sympathise with her more than anyone else by far, which is a credible achievement from Maguire as- aside from the fact that she acts as a foil for Gregor- she does not seem to be a particularly likeable (or despair inducing, as is more common in absurdism) character.
Gregor presents as a metaphor for the planet itself. He is clearly indicating what is going to happen, however those involved are too distracted or scared to truly understand him. Until it is too late of course. His parents are unfocused, his sister does not have the capacity to stop him, and those who might be able to help don’t even know what is happening. Ignorance (willful or not) regarding the issue of climate change and how to respond to it will potentially be the end of us all. The existential relevance this play is hard to miss. Playwright Katie Pollock has created a representation of the planet that is truly terrifying, and equally hateful. Holman allows us to see the logic of this character, playing him with an admirable level of subtlety without shying away from that fact he is awful in the extreme- but then again, why should the planet care about us, when we have violated it to such an extent?
This performance effectively raises the question as to whether saving the planet is possible without violent revolution, and leaves the audience to sit in the conflict of potentially harming innocents in order to save the entire population. Are we worth saving if that’s what we’re willing to do? Does worth even come into it; or is it more a question of whether you want to live or die? Do we have to choose between loving and saving? If you’re interested in confronting existential environmentalism through the lens of characters trapped in their own worlds and unable to see what is happening in front of them, this is the show for you. The strength of this show is the concepts it explores, so come for these before anything else.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.