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Renowned dramatist to bring Kafka to life

by Nobuko Tanaka

An international stage collaboration is on hand as renowned English dramatist Steven Berkoff directs a Japanese cast in his own adaptation of “The Metamorphosis,” a novella by Czech author Franz Kafka.

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug,” goes the opening line of Kafka’s 1915 work, which is among the most arresting in all of literature. Certainly it’s one that Berkoff, 72, has confessed he was truly shocked by when he first read it — so shocked, and impressed, that in 1969 he debuted this adaptation, with an original script, to tremendous acclaim in London.

Although Berkoff is probably most familiar to audiences here through his bad-guy roles in films such as “Rambo,” “Octopussy,” and “A Clockwork Orange,” he first made a name for himself after founding the London Theater Group, in which he presented stagings of many of his original plays as well as adaptations of works by Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe and ancient Greek dramatists.

Later, as Berkoff toured the world with “The Metamorphosis,” it caused a sensation not only due to its originality but also because the director would select an unusual star from each country he traveled to to take the role of Samsa — film director Roman Polanski in Paris in 1988, legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov in New York in 1989, and renowned theater director Amon Miyamoto in Tokyo in 1992.

This time, that honor falls to Mirai Moriyama, 25, who has recently enjoyed box-office success in a wide range of plays and musicals. Speaking recently of his role, Moriyama said, “I hope this performance will be really exciting if I can make my verbal expression and my physical expression combine cleverly to create both an artistic and a dramatic world on stage.”

Who knows what Berkoff can draw out of young Moriyama’s body and soul in order to metamorphose his masterpiece for today’s Japan. I believe that he will succeed, though — and those lucky enough to be there may well get to see a landmark of the Japanese stage come to life before their eyes.

“The Metamorphosis” runs till March 22 at Les Theater Ginza, a 2-minute walk from Kyobashi Station on the Ginza Subway Line. It then tours to Okayama, Osaka, Fukuoka, Toyama and Niigata from March 31 till April 13. For details, call (03) 3477-5858, or visit www.parco-play.com