Acclaimed Japanese director Oriza Hirata is releasing a stage production of Kafka's surrealist classic The Metamorphosis. But in this production, our tortured protagonist does not wake to find himself transformed into a bug. Instead, he's an android. And remarkably, an actual robot gets to star in the show.
In Kafka's original story, traveling salesman Gregor Samsa has inexplicably morphed into a gigantic, disgusting bug. This causes his family to hide him away in shame and disgust. But in Hirata's production, it's an android — exoskeleton and all — that takes center stage, both literally and figuratively.
To make it work, Hirata collaborated with leading roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro. He created a tall, gangly robot with a metal skeleton and white, human-like face and hands. An automated voice interacts with the live actors on stage, testing the timing of the four French actors chosen to play his family.
"Even though people react when they see a robot, you can tell people are not moved by it," noted Hirata in an AFP article. "I wanted to create a situation in which a robot could move an audience."
The production, titled "La Metamorphose version Androide", is set to open for a short run in Yokohama on Thursday and then travel to Europe to kick off the "Autumn Festival Normandy" next month in France.