We’re delighted to be able to share some HUGE NEWS!
We’re premiering a new online show, Metamorphosis, as part of Green Man Festival’s online party, ‘Field of Streams’ at 6pm on 22nd August. We were really looking forward to being a part of Green Man Festival this year, and now we can continue to do so – in an entirely unique and different way!
Caitlin Rickard, who's currently studying MA Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, has been taking part in the Metamorphosis production process. Below, she summarises her experiences so far - and gives us a great taster of what's to come!
As we are all far too aware, the coronavirus pandemic has meant social events have had to be disappointingly crossed off our calendars for this year: festivals, theatre shows, gigs, parties, weddings - the list goes on. Like many others on furlough or still studying, my summer became an almost completely blank page when the lockdown was announced back in March. The rest of my masters course was moved online, and my placement with Hijinx didn’t look to be going ahead. Glastonbury Festival, a normal feature of my year, was cancelled only a week after the lineup was announced. Also eventually included in the tidal wave of cancellation was Green Man, a festival I have longed to go back to since 2016 when I was first captured by its magic. As a result, Hijinx's scheduled performance at Green Man 2020 could no longer take place, at least not in the same way…
Instead of the festival happening on site this year, Green Man are hosting a day of events entitled ‘Field of Streams’, in which Hijinx are taking part with their own meta performance of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, with the whole interpretation happening over Zoom. During lockdown, feeling disappointed that my placement couldn’t go ahead and with the extra time on my hands, I got in touch with Hijinx to see if I could help out with anything as a substitute for my in-person placement. My placement leader Sarah Horner (Chief Executive) kindly replied with a few projects I could get involved with, including observing the rehearsals for Metamorphosis. I was intrigued as to what the rehearsals would be like over Zoom, and have been thoroughly impressed with the way Hijinx - Artistic Director Ben Pettitt-Wade, the actors and production team - have adapted to rehearsing online. It’s safe to say most of us have gotten to know this video conferencing software extremely well over the past few months, but a Zoom quiz doesn’t require the technical and logistical prowess needed to stage a whole play. From observing the rehearsals, I can see that Hiinx have really mastered the different functions Zoom has to offer and are using them in new and exciting ways.
Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis follows the story of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, who wakes up one morning transformed into an insect. His family are horrified and consequently fail to see his transformed self as their son; only Grete, his sister, initially treats him with any respect, providing Gregor with food. Eventually, when Gregor’s presence is costing the Samsa family their lodgers and they fall on hard times economically, they decide it’s time to get rid of ‘it’.
When the video conferencing software is not a part of the plot (as it is in Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s BBC production Staged), you might wonder how such a story could be portrayed over Zoom. However, from sitting in on the rehearsals it is clear that Hijinx’s meta interpretation does not simply tell the story act by act, but instead really pulls out the major themes of isolation, change and perspective. It seems that Director Ben Pettitt-Wade acknowledges how these are also themes that have appeared in many of our lives over the past five months: of having to quarantine, or literally ‘self isolate’ if found to have symptoms of the coronavirus; of great change in our day to day lives often described as the ‘new normal’; and having to alter our perspective and really assess our human impact on the environment and each other.
Each rehearsal starts with Ben asking the actors and members of the production team how they’ve been and if they have any ideas or updates. In the earlier rehearsals, this would involve a discussion about the text, and individual interpretations of it. The time in these sessions would then be used to experiment with different ideas on how The Metamorphosis could best and creatively be portrayed over Zoom. The ideas I’ve seen played out have all been ingenious.
One session involved the actors setting up another device on the Zoom call and putting it somewhere in their room, for example on the shelf in the corner; the idea behind this being that the second camera imitated a fly on the wall, which would look down at the actors sitting at their desks. Also, the use of the breakout room function has proved to be really handy in giving the actors the chance to be creative in smaller groups. One of the groups I observed used props from their homes to create a cocoon effect around the laptop camera, mimicking Gregor’s transformation and ‘re-birth’ into the world in a completely changed form. Hijinx’s performance for Green Man’s Field of Streams will be over the webinar function of Zoom, allowing for interaction with polls, the option to ‘raise your hand’, the chat function, and the all too familiar Zoom background, but this time used in semi-seriousness as the setting of the pre-show ‘Kaf-bar’.
It has been heartening to see how Hijinx have adapted to this change in normality; to not be deterred artistically by the societal restrictions coronavirus has meant for all of us. Despite my placement looking rather different to what I was initially expecting, it has actually meant I’ve been able to see a lot more of the action, and I have really appreciated witnessing how determined Hijinx have been to carry on experimenting creatively in challenging times. Although Zoom rehearsals lack the physicality of theatre and the simple affirming nature of physical touch and interaction that we are used to, Hijinx demonstrates the human ability to adapt to change, and if that means performances over Zoom, then that’s more than fine for now.
Registration for Metamorphosis is essential, and tickets are available here.